Eureka Springs.

We made it to Eureka Springs just before dark yesterday. After checking into our motel (yes motel-think 1964 Howard Johnson without the clam roll) and went into the historic area. It is very interesting. Because it is in the hilly Ozarks, “downtown” is a series of meandering hilly streets filled with artsy shops-98% of which were closed for the season. From what we can gather, this part of the Ozarks is a popular summer resort area. We wondered if it wasn’t to Razorbacks what the Catskills was to New York Jewish folks.

Throughout the town, there are grottos at each of the springs for which the town is named. They are decorated for Christmas like much of the rest of town.

We stopped in the Crescent Hotel which dates from the 1800s. In addition to its decorations they were hosting a charity Christmas Tree contest.

We also drove through the Christmas Light display at “The Great Passion Play” grounds. Though hard to see in the picture below of one side of the drive, the Christmas tree display was pretty amazing-the entire parking lot was filled with trees 300? 400? A billion?

The driveway ended at Arkansas’ attempt to be Rio with the Christ of the Ozarks.

We had dinner at the #2 Trip Advisor recommended restaurant, Ermillio’s. #1 was closed on Wednesday. Our meal was great! They welcomed us with a bowl of roasted garlic, butter and delicious bread. We shared an appetizer of sautéed artichoke hearts and then we halfed and halfed lasagna and eggplant Parmesan. So so good!

This morning we visited the reason for our trip here, Thorncrown Chapel-the title picture of this post. This chapel was built in 1980 and I was lucky enough to host the Architect, E Fay Jones when we lectured at Clemson. The chapel was designed to minimally impact the environment with all the construction materials being able to be handcarried by two people. Mr Jones described it as Ozark Gothic. Mike remarked that it is the perfect church-simple, stately, part of nature yet separate from it. I have wanted to see it in person since the first time I saw photos of it. The chapel was the 1980’s addition to the most important American buildings. I was shocked when the phrase I used as one (of what I presume were many) who nominated it for this honor was used as the opening paragraph in the AIA journal announcing the addition. I said it was “the only complete architectural thought of the last ten years”. I was so glad to find out that this statement holds true and perhaps for more than just that decade!

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St. Louis

We had an uneventful trip to St. Louis and arrived about 3 pm CST and checked into the Hampton Inn about three blocks from the Gateway Arch, the reason we wanted to come to St. Louis.

The arch is built between the river and downtown. This part of town was the original settlement but during a fire that started on a river boat and spread to the riverside buildings, the area was destroyed-some of it as a fire block to the rest of town.

The arch was designed by Eero Saarinen as a monument to the western expansion of the United States and was completed in 1968. It is the world’s tallest arch. At 630 feet high (and wide) and made of shiny stainless steel it is visible from far away-we first saw it when we were 10 or 12 miles away.

The National Park around the arch is beautiful and appears to be well used by St. Louisians(?) even on a cold day like today. We enjoyed our walk through the new plaza that crosses over the now buried interstate to reach the below grade entrance to the arch. After checking out the sample cart that one rides to the top, we decided that they weren’t built for big boys. The idea of the two of us sharing it with three others did make us laugh though!

Mike who doesn’t like heights was happy with this decision and after being cooped up in the car the last two days, we enjoyed our walk around the beautiful park and along the mighty Mississippi. Of course the arch remained the focus.

The shapes of the arch make for some interesting abstract photos.

We left the park at the north and walked through the older part of St. Louis which was brick warehouses now lofts and an entertainment district. I had originally identified a Trip Advisor recommended BBQ restaurant but after our big lunch we decided we wouldn’t enjoy it. So instead we stopped in a brewery and had a beer apiece and split two appetizers-pretzels with incredible beer cheese and a delicious crab cake. We didn’t have high hopes for it but was really tasty. Best of all everything was half price for happy hour!

Tomorrow we are headed to Eureka Springs but as it’s only 5 hours away and we don’t have any plans there until Thursday morning we are looking forward to having s lazy day and being able to stop along the way as we want.

Indiana (and Illinois)!

While Abe hadn’t made it from Kentucky to greet us at the Indiana Welcome Station, we did have a fun time exploring Santa Claus, Indiana for a few minutes. Everything is Santa related (as it should be) including the volunteer fireman!

After lunch at an Amish place (in SC it would have been called country cooking) we quickly hid the Illinois border. I’m posting this as Mike chauffeurs me towards Missouri which we should hit in about 2 hours.

Welcome to Kentucky!

So honored that POTUS (ret) took time out of his busy day to welcome me to his birth state earlier today. We had an uneventful drive from Danville to Richmond, KY where we are having a great visit with Jane including a delish Thai dinner.

We are all checked into her retirement facility’s guest suite. Does this mean we are now officially being assisted in living? 😂

We will leave after breakfast in the morning for St. Louis. Hope to get there and visit the arch and maybe the Clydesdales.

Christmas Cantata

Had a wonderful evening at Lois’ church this evening for their Christmas cantata. She, her boyfriend Jerry (that’s him in the red sweater below) and the rest of the choir have been rehearsing a lot for it. In addition to the choir and their multimedia program, two groups of little kids played the bells and their was a duet by some tweens and the organist did a couple of solos.

Afterwards of course there were goodies in the fellowship hall. I helped assemble six dozen ham biscuits while Lois made pumpkin dip- who knew that a can of pumpkin, vanilla pudding and cool whip could make a dip??? There were loads of tasty treats but the big seller was the pizza from Domino’s-it wasn’t even shaped like a Christmas tree. 😢

The Mazda is all packed (including country ham, Congo squares, and sun dried plum cake which Mike made today) and ready for Mike and me to start our Christmas road trip tomorrow which will get us to New Orleans to Mike’s brother and his family on the 22nd and to Charleston to see my family on the 27th. First stop is Richmond, Kentucky to see a former client and great friend, Jane. After that we will head to St. Louis, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Little Rock, and Jefferson, MS.

Our afternoon’s work.

Making Christmas cookies is much more fun than shoveling snow. 😂 Especially with a glass of wine!

Mike made these cookies several years ago after finding a handwritten card in our recipe folder.

It was titled “Grandma J’s” so he tried to surprise me by making my grandmother’s cookies. But it was him who was surprised when I reminded him that both my Grandmothers were named Margaret!

So while we don’t know who she is/was or how her recipe got in our stuff, we do know she makes/made a really good cookie. The cookie is basically a shortbread dough rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked in a slow oven. They only spread a little and are crumbly and delicious. They have become tradition for us and for several friends who also bake.

Next up some new cookies George introduced us to….Forgotten Cookies. You mix them, put in the oven and cut it off. The next morning they are done!

Anyone want to bet that they are so forgotten that we preheat the oven tomorrow morning and burn them?😂