Hipster Bike in OKC

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Another “not taken on this day” confession. For some reason I didn’t take any photos of our time at the Spring Bling, but I’m hoping to snag a few that others took and post them as soon as I can. As it is, this is one of my first attempts at taking pictures on manual instead of auto. I’m thinking about banning myself from auto for a whole month and seeing if that forces me into REALLY learning everything about my camera…

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OKC Science Museum Fun

Oklahoma City Science Museum
I took the boys to the Oklahoma City Science Museum today and I think it’s safe to say they really enjoyed it. We will definitely be going back again and probably soon. *grin*

Window Shopping the Coney Island

I will confess: I have a soft spot for original dive-ish eating establishments. These three and I were downtown today for a choir concert Katie and Millie were in at the Downtown Library. We were super close to this Coney Island and I thought it might be fun to drop in for a late lunch. It was fun and the atmosphere inside was everything I’d hoped it would be, but alas, they are a cash-only place and I only had $5 and a debit card with me, so it was not meant to be. Maybe later.

The Sweetery Eatery in Oklahoma City

Sweetery Eatery
In my desperate attempt to figure out something to do for Teacher Appreciation Week on Monday for our North Campus teachers, I suddenly remembered that I’d been meaning to check out The Sweetery Eatery which is all of a mile from my house.

It’s a pretty new local establishment and I’m happy they are close by!

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Happier still that only 6 of the cupcakes got eaten at the school (it’s a small staff) and that Craig brought the rest home for the 6 of us after dinner. *grin*

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Congrats to you, Sweetery Eatery! I wish you great success as you continue to grow your business here in NW OKC.

I Heart the Fair!


I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University before I realized that the official state fair of Oklahoma wasn’t really in Tulsa, but was, in fact, in Oklahoma City. My confusion should be understandable. There is a fair every fall in Tulsa called the Tulsa State Fair. I had no idea there was ANOTHER state fair. I mean, why? Why two state fairs? I still don’t know. I do know this: I hadn’t been to a state fair since college, much less the actual Oklahoma State Fair, and I really wanted to go.

I found out that this coming Monday, kids through grade 12 get free admission to the fair, so I had been telling my girls for several days if they could get all of their work for Tuesday done over the weekend, we would take Monday off and go to the fair. They were pumped.

Last night I got a phone call reminding me of an orthodontist appointment we have scheduled for Monday. In Norman. It’s an appointment I scheduled back in July and it is nearly impossible to reschedule. I knew we had to keep it. Going to the fair on Monday was not going to work.

The girls were disappointed and, honestly, I was too. Then Craig and I conferred and decided we could use one of my writing payments from September and take the girls today. They were pumped. So was I.

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I mean, it’s not every day you get to marvel at the likes of Deep Fried Macaroni and Cheese, Deep Fried Mashed Potatoes on a Stick, or Chocolate Covered Corndogs. You name it, they had strung it on a stick, dipped it in batter, and fried it golden crisp. I love going to fairs just for the sake of marveling at the lows we are collectively willing to sink to all in the name of fall fun. Yes, I just lumped myself in with the entire fair demographic. We got one of these:

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It’s our annual shared funnel cake. Woe to the funnel cake stand in which their funnel cake maker was not working. We had to leave them and go to another stand. My kids began squabbling about who got to hold the plate and who was picking off more than someone else and I looked them all squarely in the eyes and told them if I heard another word about it I would eat the entire thing all by myself while they watched. The squabbling stopped.

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We were all surprised to see the St. Louis Arch right there at the State Fair Park. Who knew? It appeared a bit smaller than usual, but it was looking pretty good. There were a bunch of little arches nearby too. I’m still really curious to know what that was all about, but we didn’t take the time to try to figure it out while we were there. We had things to do, places to go, grease to consume. We were off.

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This funny little western show was one of our first experiences. It was a nice way to begin our time at the fair, if not altogether silly. But this is the fair. Silliness is a virtue here, right?

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We saw all the arts and crafts exhibitions and I was taken back to my youth when I’d see all the local kids’ 4-H entries and wish with all my heart I could be in 4-H too. I wanted to bake cookies and get a prize for it. I wanted to submit my own sewing projects and get affirmation that comes by way of a shiny blue ribbon. I just KNEW I could do it.

My kids had that same twinge today when they saw all the interesting and unique things that kids their age had turned in. They wondered how they, too, could participate next year. It’s been some 27 years since I first asked that question and I still don’t know the answer to it.

In other news, isn’t that Oklahoma cake awesome? There were several great cakes on display as well as other baked yumminess. And irony walked by in the form of a 15-year-old girl who sneared at the cases of cookies and fudge as she said, “THAT looks unhealthy.” She then took a big slug of her 32oz Big Gulp of red stickiness. Indeed, sullen teen, indeed.

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There is just something about the fair that makes it okay to yearn for the 1960s. Nobody expects the fair to change from year to year. Walking in today, in 2011, was really no different than the 1994 version I last experienced. And I liked it that way. The buildings just make me want to set up a Brady Bunch house in the parking lot and stuff it with canned goods. Maybe I need help.

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This sign? I sigh with content. I just love it. And I don’t really even know much about The Oklahoman other than that I clip coupons from it on Sunday afternoons, but this sign right there makes me want to be a staff writer. Please, Oklahoman, please?

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There was no way I was going to purchase unlimited ride wristbands for the five of us, so I bought enough tickets for all of us to ride one thing. Maddie and Chloe chose the favorite from my own childhood: The Himalaya. I looked at them wistfully as they stepped in line and then I hopped on the Sky Ride with Katie and Millie. I’m not kidding myself. The Himalaya would have made me violently dizzy and possibly incapable of driving home afterwards. The Sky Ride was PERFECT for feeling like you’ve experienced most of the fair even though you really hung out mostly on one side. It was a little disappointing, though, when we were halfway around and they made us get off. Nobody bothered to tell us our tickets were only good for half of the ride. Boo, Sky Ride, boo!

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The set of tickets I had purchased left us with 8 after the five us of made our selections, so I quickly ran and got 4 more, so the three of us could ride the Sky Ride back down to where the other girls were waiting. Did you follow all the numbers there? Never mind. We still enjoyed the ride even if they did rip us off even more than expected.

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Just as the fun threshold was just about to be reached, we walked into one last building. I really wanted to see the piglets that were born this week. We never saw those, but we did happen upon a really awesome hands-on agricultural display and we ended up staying there for about an hour. We saw baby chicks hatching and butterflies emerging from their cocoons.

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We did see these two little guys who had been heartlessly named Bacon and Sausage. Oink, sniff, oink. (Note: We do love both bacon AND sausage around here, but don’t really care to think about what they looked like when they still had legs.) Moving on then.

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This entire section was a highlight of our fair experience for sure.

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In lieu of $8 corndogs for dinner (each, yes, each), I told the girls we’d just go to Chick-Fil-A on our way home. They all agreed that would be a better deal and were happy to wait. While there, the guy taking our order asked us what we liked best about the fair. I said I really liked the kids’ agriculture exhibit the best and laughed when my girls said they all liked the ride they picked the best. I get that. I’m cool with that.

But I have a few more things I really liked too. I’m a sucker for the exhibit buildings. I know it’s like walking past one commercial after another, but I would have kept doing it if they hadn’t been so stinking crowded and my kids weren’t visibly tired. They did not want to see the knives demo or get another sample of sour candy. They wanted out of there. I obliged. But if I could go again all by myself, I’d definitely hang out in the buildings.

I also liked the funnel cake. A lot. And, no, I don’t think I would have REALLY eaten the entire thing by myself had my kids not stopped squabbling. At least I like to think I wouldn’t have. Sheesh.

But I really did like that kids’ agriculture building a lot too.

All in all, it was a super fun day and we were all glad we went. And I’m making a mental note to myself for next year: No orthodontist appointments on kids’ free admission day.

Oklahoma City Septemberfest

OKC Governor's Mansion

Earlier today I called out to the girls, “Hey, you want to do something fun? Get dressed! We’re leaving in ten minutes!”

Basically, there’s this annual tradition of being able to tour the Governor’s Mansion that has morphed into a big ginormous party. There were tons of things to do and, in fact, I just realized we didn’t even know about all the stuff INDOORS inside the Oklahoma History Center. Ah, well, there’s always next year.

In truth, we were there almost four hours and I can tell you, we were ready to leave when we left. But it was awesome and I’m glad we went.

There’s no way I can post all the photos I took or even give a list of everything we did (or wanted to do but didn’t), but I can give you a sampling. One important note is that it was all free! Normally those types of events seem to have a section of cool stuff that you have to pay for. All the cool stuff here was also free. But what that meant was…LINES! Not unexpected, I know, but something to be aware of on the front end.

The first booth we stopped at was the OKC Zoo booth. They had a nice display of information, crafts, and hands-on learning.

OKC Zoo Exhibit
Here are some of my kids making bracelets and bookmarks at either the Red Earth  Museum & Gallery or the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art booth (I can’t remember which one this is!):

Museum Fun
And then here we are, standing in line to go inside the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion. Don’t we all look so thrilled to be standing there?

Governor's Mansion
And then imagine our surprise when the governor herself, Mary Fallin, walked by right in front of us. Imagine even MORE surprise when all of my girls went, “Who? The governor is a woman?” Guess who forgot to tell her children who the governor of Oklahoma is before we toured her house? Yes. Political mom fail. We can talk more about that later. Ahem. Moving on then. A photo:

Governor Mary Fallin
And one of the many line-infested inflatables/bungie jump swing things:

Swinging Fun
It was here where we turned into raging monsters got a tad cranky. The line was long, it was right around lunch time, it was super hot. And then, after waiting in the line for FOREVER, a kid from the back cut the line right in front of us. My girls were not happy about it. I told them that some things you just had to live with. And then the punk boy called over to his sister to join him in his newly buffeted position in line. It was at this moment I calmly said to him, “Hey. You know, we know you were behind us and now you are in front of us. Not much we can do about that at this point. But I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t invite a big group of your friends over here to join you now that you’ve done it.”

Yep. Mama needed a time out too. Moving on then.

So there was a pretty awesome agricultural display. This fella in the picture with E7 gives a literal meaning to the term HOLY COW!

Ginormous Cow
And then we hit the historical section. I was fascinated to learn of this whole group of people who do something referred to seemingly officially as “Rendezvous and Muzzle Loading” (that link was the closest I could find to what I think he was talking about). In short, they do the period-costume and camping thing and they do it regularly, with their whole families. Interesting, for sure.

Here are my girls playing with some replica land-run era toys along with this little cutie who went on her first Rendezvous when she was just two weeks old!

Historical Toys
And on our way out we had to get a picture of K9 in front of her military vehicle namesake:

Military Vehicle
And one more – though I snapped this photo on our way in, it didn’t occur to me how funny it looks until on our way out. I think it’s hilarious that this giant state capitol sign is positioned where it is. I guess it’s for those of us who don’t, in fact, realize that they are standing right in front of said state capitol. Guess you just can’t assume anything here in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State Capitol
So there you have it. The Half-Pint House experienced Septemberfest today and overall we give it 10 thumbs up! I can see us doing this again next year for sure.

Tourist inYour Own Town: St. Louis – Shakespeare in the Park

TouristTown

Every year there is a free production of Shakespeare in the Park that kicks off the summer in Forest Park. Every year we talk about going but never go. This year we made it happen. And we kicked ourselves for waiting this long. Lesson learned. Shakespeare in the Park in St. Louis totally rocks.

Shakespeare in the Park

This year marks the tenth anniversary of these outdoor productions and they did Hamlet. Now I’ll confess, I’m a little rusty on my Shakespeare. Okay, if you consider that I wasn’t really even sure what Hamlet was about, I guess I’m a lot rusty. But, as we discovered last night, it’s okay if you are rusty on your Hamlet. Before the show begins they have “The Green Show” in which they do a 20-minute version of the play. It is VERY good for giving you an overview of the story.

Shakespeare in the Park

The girls enjoyed it so much they watched it twice. Right next to the Green Show stage, there are tables with crafts for the kids to do.

Shakespeare in the Park

 The kids made masks and crowns and then dressed up with brocade fabrics draped around them and paraded through the crowd with musical instruments.

Shakespeare in the Park

There was more pre-show entertainment by way of jugglers and jesters who interacted with the crowd.

Shakespeare in the Park

And then there was the play itself. I was not allowed to take photos during the show, but I did snap a photo of the set before the show started.

Shakespeare in the Park

Now then, for the 411 on how to do this. I think we avoided this in the past because of the heat, the need to hire a pest removal for the bugs and the small children we would be toting with us. We figured we need to push through this this year and try it anyway. I’m pretty sure we could have done this in the past and been fine. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Arrive by 6pm – The play itself doesn’t begin until 8, but there are things to do beforehand (like The Green Show, crafts, and crowd entertainment). You need to get there early if you have any hope of securing a decent seat.
  • Bring blankets and pillows – lawn chairs are optional – We hauled in three blankets and at least 6 pillows in addition to two camping chairs. If we didn’t have the chairs we could have moved up to that “blankets only” section. I’m thinking next year we’ll bring crazy creek chairs or something so we can sit up there. Of the six of us, I’m the only one who used the camping chair the whole show. Everyone else got comfy with the blankets and pillows. We used one blanket to save the spot in front of the girls from anyone tall sitting there and it worked (shhh, don’t tell on us).
  • Bring food – I thought packing out dinner would be too big of a hassle this year so we ate at home before we left and just brought some snacks. But really, you have so much time before the show starts, it would have helped the time to pass had we just eaten dinner at the park. Lesson learned.
  • Bring jackets – I would never have thought of this, but we were encouraged to bring jackets because by 11pm, it does get a little cool.

Tourist in Your Own Town: St. Louis – Laumeier Sculpture Park

TouristTown

Today’s installment of Be a Tourist in Your Own Town showcases an interesting collection of exhibits in St. Louis in the form of Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Tourist in Your Own Town

This is another one pulled out our archives. Three summers ago I had the great idea to visit a different park in St. Louis every week. I think we made it to two and this was the first one we went to. 

The park showcases a variety of unique sculptures (hence its name). From their website,

Laumeier Sculpture Park
exhibits contemporary sculpture, as well as drawing, painting, ceramics,
glass and photography related to the outdoor sculpture program. New
exhibitions are mounted several times each year, both indoors and out.
The program draws internationally-known as well as emerging artists to
the site to create, install and lecture on their work.”

The day we went the indoor exhibits were closed, so we were only able to experience the outdoor ones.

Tim Burton Meets Sculpture Garden

If contemporary art isn’t exactly your cup of tea, this might not be the best use of your time, but if you can appreciate unique creativity and a lovely outdoor venue, give it a whirl.

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The park is open 363 days of the year from 8am to sunset. The museum is closed on Mondays and official holidays. You can see the hours and get directions here.

So if you are looking for something different to do, pack a picnic lunch and head to this 105-acre “open air” museum. And take your camera!

Tourist in Your Own Town: St. Louis – Concordia Seminary

TouristTown

Today’s installment of Be a Tourist in Your Own Town is an oldie but a goodie for our family. A visit to Concordia Seminary.

I know. A seminary may seem like an odd place to feature in my Tourist in Your Own Town series, but consider the source. We moved here to St. Louis five years ago to be…a seminary family. (Incidentally, not Concordia, but Covenant. Also incidentally, Craig finishes his second degree NEXT MONTH. And there will be much rejoicing…until the loan deferment wears off and we receive the gift of a steep monthly bill in the mail which will come for the rest of our natural lives. Ahem.)

Okay, so back to Concordia. We lived here for about 15 months when I learned that Concordia allows people to come tour their campus. We couldn’t resist.

For Whom the Bells Tolls

While the institution itself was established in 1839, the present location of the seminary came to be in 1927. It is in the heart of the Central West End of St. Louis which is just all kinds of amazing as you step out of the city and into the peace and serenity these 72 acres of landscaping and architectural wonder provide. It was almost enough to make us want to become Lutheran.

Concordia Courtyard, Side View

We’d heard a rumor before we went that sometimes Concordia students climb the statue of the great reformer himself and place a can of beer in his hands. We asked our tour guide about this. He offered no comment on that. We laughed quietly.

Here I Stand!

On your tour of the campus you can climb Luther Tower if you are so inclined (get it? inclined? It’s late…)

Down the Up Staircase

You can see the tower in the background of this photo:

Shadowed in front of Luther Tower

At the top of this tower you can see the 49-bell carillon that is still played today. More info
on this can be found here
.

More Bells

After you’ve accomplished this feat, you are given one of these “I Climbed Luther Tower” buttons.

Our Claim to Fame

I still have mine.

Concordia Seminary

All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour or two in the middle of St. Louis. I recommend it.

 

Tourist in Your Own Town: St. Louis – Fitz’s Rootbeer

TouristTown

Today’s installment of Be a Tourist in Your Own Town brings us to Fitz’s Rootbeer on what is known as “The Loop” in the hip part of town, the Delmar Strip between Big Bend and Skinker.

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The really cool thing about Fitz’s (besides the bottomless mugs of rootbeer) is the history behind it.

Fitz’s Root Beer made its appearance in
1947, at a small drive-in hamburger joint in Richmond Heights, Missouri.
The secret formula was developed with the help of a flavor house in
St. Louis and remains a closely guarded secret to this day. Ask an
older St. Louis resident about Fitz’s, and chances are he’ll remember
parking his Chevy Bel-Aire convertible in the lot, ordering a couple of
burgers with kitchen sauce, a side of fries, and a large mug of Fitz’s
root beer. And the total bill was under two bucks. The root beer
became the St. Louis favorite.

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Really, Fitz’s is your standard hamburger joint with a slightly steeper price tag. Kids meals here are $4.59 each which I think they think they can get away with because of the bottomless mugs of rootbeer they hand out.

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And maybe because of the vintage paper cars the meals come in:

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I did notice a sign up today that says kids eat free all day on Tuesdays which is good news for you. Not such good news for us since we went today (Monday). But keep that in mind – I don’t know how long that promotion will last, but it’s definitely worth looking in to.

Even though it is pricey, I like the vibe. What you can’t see pictured here is that directly the left of the following photo, they keep their bottling plant behind big glass windows. I’ve only seen them in action one time when we came with an organized field trip, but there was a guy cleaning the equipment there today so I’m guessing they run the plant in the morning. It was cool to see it in action, so it would be worth a phone call to find out when they do that so you can see it too.

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They have main level seating as well as upstairs and patio seating available.

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I believe I mentioned it is in a hip part of town, so even though you are walking around with your comfy pants on and your four youngish kids, you can still pretend to be part of the happening scene. For about 45 seconds. Then you might trip in front of the loop sign pictured above and draw unnecessary attention to yourself in front of the street workers there on the loop.

That may or may not have happened to me. It may or may not happen to you.

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So, that’s the skinny on that. If you are in the St. Louis/Central West End
area looking for a hip hamburger joint and don’t mind paying for the ambiance, consider Fitz’s Rootbeer on the Loop!