Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Benner House Bed and Breakfast

Last week Dr. Lobo and I took a short but pleasant trip to Weston, Missouri, a small town near Kansas City. It's on the Lewis & Clark trail, which is how we discovered it a few years ago. (Dr. Lobo is a Lewis & Clark enthusiast, so we have traveled across the country looking at all the sites.)
The idea for this trip was born when Dr. Lobo drank the last of a whiskey called B.J. Holladay's Private Keep. He needed to pick up a few more bottles at the McCormick Country Store in Weston. After we made travel plans, he learned that the distillery no longer makes this particular whiskey. He is not a big drinker, but he likes what he likes, so let me just say he was NOT HAPPY. For details, see his blog post about it. (Go to www.lobojosden.blogspot.com and find the June 3rd post.)

He was ready to call off the trip, but by that time, I had started to like the idea of a Bed & Breakfast adventure and I'd made reservations. I said we were going anyway, whiskey or no whiskey.

We stayed two nights in a neat old house. The Benner Home was built in 1898 by George Shawhan, who owned what is now known as the McCormick Distillery. In the early 1900s, Charles Benner bought the home. It remained in his family until 1986, when it was converted to a Bed & Breakfast.

The owners, Sheri and Mitch, have created a wonderful place to relax. Sheri is a great cook. She’s also talented at being friendly and available as needed, while remaining unobtrusive. For more information about the Benner House Bed & Breakfast, go here.

Would you like a tour? Here's the house from the street.

Come closer.

I love this huge porch. The days were warm, but the evenings were cooler and we enjoyed sitting on the porch. (Until the mosquitoes discovered us. Hey, no place is perfect!)

This was one of my favorite rooms in the house. With all those windows, I bet it's wonderfully sunny in the winter time.

Here is the dining room, where we ate with the other guests. On our first morning there, Sheri served delicious French toast. On the second day, we ate her homemade quiche and cinnamon rolls. Ummmmm!

In this room, we could always find coffee and tea, along with snacks such as Sheri's homemade scones. I've eaten scones in the past and not been particularly impressed, but hers were excellent.

Outside was nice, too.

I spent a very pleasant hour in this pool.

Weston is located in a pretty area, as you can see. Its downtown is about two blocks long.
It has some interesting antique and gift shops. It also has an Asian clothing store in which I spent entirely too much money.

On the way to Weston and on our return trip, we stopped at several antique stores and found a few treasures.
Oh, and Dr. Lobo came home with half a dozen bottles of whiskey from the McCormick Country Store. He thinks they'll be a reasonable substitute for his old favorite.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Latest Favorite Book

I read--a lot. I mostly read children's books, as you can see by looking at the Shelfari bookshelf here on my blog that shows all the books I've read since the beginning of 2009. I especially like YA books. Those are Young Adult books, intended for kids from about fifth grade through high school.

I don't expect to write many book reviews on my blog, as there are plenty of other people who do that. But I read a book last week that was so good that I can't stop talking about it. It's the kind of book I want to write.

Gordon Korman (pictured below) has been writing YA books for a long time. He knows kids, and he knows writing.

Korman's SCHOOLED has captured my heart.

Here's the basic plot: Thirteen-year-old Cap lives on a communal farm established by his grandmother and other hippies in 1967. Over time, members of the commune have moved away, and now Cap and his grandmother live on the farm by themselves. When his grandmother is hospitalized and then goes through rehab, a social worker takes Cap home with her and enrolls him in the local middle school. He is the strangest person the kids there have ever known. They, of course, being middle schoolers, proceed to harass him because he is different.

I won't tell you more than that, but it is a beautiful, believable story. Maybe I love it because Cap spouts hippie philosophy and it reminds me of those days when I was young. Or maybe I love it because I spent so much of my teaching career surrounded by middle schoolers, and although I love kids that age, I have to say that middle schools have to be among the most cruel places on the planet. Young teens, even as vulnerable and loving as they can be, can also be merciless. Or maybe I love it because Cap is so naive, sort of a noble savage character. But mostly, I think I love it because it is a story of how people, and especially kids, can influence each other in positive ways.
A writer less skillful than Korman probably couldn't write this story. He writes from multiple points of view, and he makes us understand all of the characters, whether male or female, kid or adult. The story is funny, heartbreaking, touching, and inspiring. He did everything RIGHT.

Go ahead. Read a book intended for kids. You can finish it in a day, and you'll love it.

As for me, I'm adding a bunch of Gordon Korman's more recent books to my "Big Fat Reading List," the books I want to read soon. I want to see what other magic he's created, and I want to see what I can learn from him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cast of Bronze

Cast of Bronze, a handbell ensemble from Dallas, participated in our morning worship service and then presented a concert on Sunday afternoon. It was awesome.

I've heard handbells before, but not like this. They sounded wonderful, but to me, their coordination and teamwork is just as incredible. Musicians often play two bells at once, then lay down those bells and grab another one or two, all while keeping perfect rhythm. Sometimes they even move to another area entirely, without missing a beat. I'm way too big a klutz to manage that! I'd be dropping bells everywhere.

These folks obviously enjoy playing. They were having fun, which, of course, led to fun for their audience.

This is their conductor, Christopher T. Nabors. He's been playing bells since he was a kid, and he isn't tired of them yet.

These colorful tubes are called boomwhackers.

These are tone chimes, which are "sort of like tuning forks on steroids," according to Chris.

See those small colorful bells? They're desk bells, like the ones you ring to get a clerk's attention. They each have a different sound.

How about these bells? Why go to the gym when you can lift these? The big silver colored ones are not the heaviest. They're made of an aluminum alloy and weigh about twelve pounds, while the large bronze bells weigh about seventeen pounds.

For one song during morning worship, Cast of Bronze, our pianist, and a trumpeter played their instruments while our choir sang. I can't figure out when they had a chance to practice together. They must have found time, though, because it was great. For a couple of songs during the concert, drums were added. It was a joyful noise!

You can find out more about Cast of Bronze by going to their website, http://www.castofbronze.com/.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

Today is my "baby's" birthday--the last one in his twenties!

We didn't decide to have a third child, and there's an interesting story about his conception, but I won't go into that here. I will say that we were delighted as soon as we knew I was pregnant with him. Once he was born, I was completely charmed by that big (ten pound, one ounce) baby boy with all the dark hair. I sometimes say that he was not planned, but he was certainly not a mistake.

Little Guy had a tough act to follow, but he has kept up with his older siblings in all the ways that matter. He's smart, sensitive, and affectionate, with a strong sense of justice.

We always referred to him as "the kid with his own agenda," and that remains true. He's a deep thinker who sees life differently than other people. He's a philosopher who asks all the questions that have no answers.

The last few years have thrown some challenges his way, but I have faith that he will come through the rough times in good shape.

Throughout his life, I have often looked at Little Guy and wondered what my life would have been like without him. I can't imagine my world without this kind, gentle soul.

Thank you, Little Guy, for bringing so much joy and love into my life. You are such a blessing. Have a happy birthday, and may this next year bring good things your way.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Disadvantages of a Cat Door

Our three cats are both indoor and outside animals. For quite a while, we got our exercise by getting up to let a cat in or out. This got tiresome. So Dr. Lobo installed a cat door and our cats could come in or go out as they pleased.

Then a new problem developed. Other cats, who do NOT belong to us, sometimes visit. Once we found a small orange kitten in our kitchen helping himself to the cat food in the feeder. (We never did find out where he came from. He hung around for a couple of days, then disappeared, which is a good thing, since I was ready to adopt him. I’m partial to orange cats.)

Another cat, who must belong to someone in our neighborhood, comes around regularly. We call him The Applicant, as we think he’s applying for adoption. He sneaks in and gobbles down a meal whenever possible. Sometimes he meows loudly as he comes in, looking for a kitty playmate. This meets with mixed results. Sometimes a cat plays with him, but other times one promptly chases him away. A few times he’s gone upstairs to find a fellow feline, but failing that, he’s found a place to sleep until a human or a cat runs him out.

Now I don’t really begrudge a few meals to visiting cats. After all, I’m a cat woman, and I seldom find a cat I don’t like. But I am NOT happy to play hostess to other animals.

We saw the evidence before we found the intruder. For several mornings in a row, we found water, dirt, and footprints on the floor. But the biggest clue was the water bowl. It was filthy and had bits of food in it. Ewwww!

One night last week I was sitting in the kitchen reading when some unfamiliar paws came through the cat door.

Then a body pushed its way through.

It was not a cat.

He looked at me warily, then backed out. I found the camera. He returned a couple more times, but wouldn’t stay when he saw me in the room. After a while, I tired of being on raccoon watch, so I handed the camera to Dr. Lobo and went off to take a shower. I looked out the bathroom window, and saw the raccoon sitting right under it. He stared at me. I stared back. All three of our cats were in the area, but they seemed unconcerned. They must have thought he was a weird looking cat.

Dr. Lobo reported that as soon as I turned on the shower, Mr. Raccoon decided it was safe to go into the kitchen. From the dining room, Dr. Lobo recorded his visit. Even when he used the flash on the camera, the brazen interloper was undeterred. He just looked at Dr. Lobo like “Please! I’m trying to enjoy my dinner!”

He washed his food, just like Mama Raccoon had taught him to do.

Dr. Lobo figured he just had to lay down some rules. (I don’t know why he thought that would work. Our kids never paid much attention to rules.)

I have my own solution. Whenever we get ready to go to bed now, we block off the cat door. Our cats are learning about curfews. (They seem to get the concept better than our kids did.) Any cat who is not inside when the cat door is closed for the night must wait until morning to get back in.

I like wild life. Just not in my kitchen.