Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For persnickety pickle people

Okay, we interrupt the regular blog posting to present a message to Long Island residents in search of pickles - Heinz Hamburger Dill Chips, to be exact - because they are practically impossible to find on Long Island. Most stores carry a variety of other brands, and if they carry Heinz, it's usually only sweet relish.

Persnickety pickle palates recognize that the Heinz Hamburger Dill Chip has the right pickle punch - the right amount of crispiness, a nice vinegar tang that doesn't overwhelm, and nice ridges...it's the way a hamburger dill is supposed to be.

And where can you get Heinz Hamburger Dill Chips on Long Island? In Nassau County, you can find them at Uncle Giuseppe's Italian Market at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Prospect Avenue in East Meadow. I can't speak for their other locations in Port Washington or Smithtown, but in East Meadow, besides pickles, they have a great selection of Sterling Silver meats, Bell & Evans chickens, and some delicious in-store deli stuff including some crazy good fried Italian chicken cutlets and tomato-mozzarella salad.

So there you have it. Go to Uncle Giuseppe's in East Meadow and get your Heinz Hamburger Dill pickle fix.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh, HAIL no!

So last week, we saw that there was some severe weather in Brad and Bob's neck of the woods and, sure enough, Bob sent an e-mail with a frightening delivery: pictures of the aftermath.

Kansas weather is so extreme...hot hots of 105 degrees in the summer are not terribly unusual, and bone-chilling cold temps of 5 below zero are possible in the winter. It wouldn't be unusual to have a foot or more of snow, and sometimes 2-3 feet. And in the spring and summer, when the hot and the cold have fights as to who will win, tornadoes and hail are the result.

Okay, so let's have a before/after look:

Bob sent pictures of their tomatoes on July 5. His were a lot larger than mine, having had 45-day jump on us since the weather heats up in Kansas a lot earlier than here. They were lush and beautiful plants and they were loaded with tomatoes, as you can see. A few had ripened. The one you see in the front was about 5.5 feet tall, and the one in the back by the fence was about 7 feet tall.

The hail that did this was golf-ball size or larger. Here's the plant in the container...

...and here's the one by the fence.

Here's what it did to a piece of lawn furniture...note the completely broken arm and seat.

Bob reported that when the hail struck the ground it would bounce 4-5 feet in the air. Can you imagine? Well, I can, having lived there. It's fairly terrifying to watch, and even more terrifying to be caught out in. I can remember one day being caught in a similar storm and the hail ripping my poor umbrella to shreds as I raced from the car to the house.

These are heavy, round citronella lamps that sit on the ground and are lit at night. Bob said he thought it odd that the hail wouldn't have just glanced off them since they are round and smooth and metal, which is exactly what I thought when I saw them. But apparently, the hail had other ideas, as you see.

Another area of disaster. Can you imagine the work to clean all this up?

The pool was filled with leaves and debris and had to be cleaned out. The storm had caught Bob by surprise and so the pool, which he was swimming in just before the storm started, didn't get covered as it usually does. Probably best, though, as the undoubtedly would have ripped the cover to shreds.

Look at all the holes made in the lawn by the hail. Bob put his shoe into the picture on purpose near one of the holes to give a perspective of how large the holes were. If you're thinking, "the lawn doesn't look so bad," you should have seen how thick, green and lush it was before this. Take it from me, this looks bad.

Oh, and here is the lawn, covered in the icy stuff.

Bob holds one of the hailstones in his hand. It's not one of the larger stones, it's just one he happened to pick up and photograph.

The cannas alongside the house were decimated. Unfortunately, he can't cut them down because the leaves need to continue collecting sunlight to feed the bulbs for next year.

They had broken storm windows, it totaled their roof, put dents into their wood clapboard siding...just a lot of damage...and a lot of clean-up. Bob remarked that they clean up and clean up, but every day they find new messes as debris continues to fall out of the trees or they come across other damage to property they hadn't noticed yet.

The insurance adjuster is coming Sunday, and this storm happened 10 days ago. Bob called the morning after the storm as soon as the agency opened but the line was busy, busy, busy.

Hmmm....I hear a song playing in the background..."I..love New York..."

I feel for you, my boys. I really do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Once home from Kansas...

I took the last two days of the week that we went to Kansas off, so I could spend some time with our friend Tom, who house-sat and dog-sat for us while we were traveling. On Thursday, I had intended to drive out east and pick strawberries to make strawberry preserves, but the weather had other ideas. It rained like cats and dogs, or as Jess likes to say, puppies and cats, so there was going to be no picking that day. So we went to a nice little comfort-food diner that serves terrific breakfasts and pigged out, then went to a movie in the afternoon, My Life in Ruins. Tom had already seen it and thought it was cute, I hadn't so we went. It was okay, but tedious. I am not the biggest fan of Nia Vardalos. I don't understand what draws her to boring, drippy scripts, but that's apparently her specialty. I was, however, impressed with Richard Dreyfuss, who looks great and acts well, and he basically stole the show from Ms. Vardalos; even with its sappy-ness I still thought he was pretty good. But would I pay even $3 to rent it from Netflix? Nope.

So, Friday, we did get our chance to go out east to the berry farms, and go we did. I picked eight quarts and then we went to another stand where I bought four more. I wound up with about 11 pints of preserves, which I had to make up immediately, so there went the weekend. It didn't matter, it was fun.

On Friday afternoon, Tom and I stopped into an antiques shop and picked up a table for the living room, which I got a great deal on, and when we got home, we played "rearrange the furniture." Tom is an interior designer and so he is always looking for ways to change things up a bit and, boy, did he make some good suggestions. With just a few moves here and there, he brought a much nicer, more comfortable look and feel to the dining room, the front room, and the library. It's nice to have a designer as your close friend!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

HAIR - The Musical

The revival of Hair is, without a doubt, one of the best shows on Broadway right now, and in some time. We went to see it last Saturday night, thanks to Jeff, who bought us tickets as our wedding present back in April.

If you are 40 or younger, you will like this show. It's frenetic, has great singing, and it's very audience-involved. If you're my age or older, you're going to love the show because it brings back memories of the original and, amazingly, is as well-sung as the original, which is saying a lot. In spite of its outrageousness for the time (1967), with pot smoking, full nudity and the like, Hair managed to produce music that resonated with the mainstream pop market and produced classics through groups like The Cowsills (Good Morning, Starshine), Three Dog Night (Easy To Be Hard), and The 5th Dimension (Aquarius/The Flesh Failures/Let the Sun Shine In).

Even though I liked them, I never was as big a fan of these pop versions because my sister had the original cast recording, and I really liked that album. The pop versions weren't as gritty and genuine as the originals. Surprisingly, a few years ago, Jess and I had been discussing Hair and we both surprised each other that 1) we both liked the show/recordings and 2) that the soundtrack from the 1979 movie was actually our favorite. Jess had downloaded the music onto his iPod and we'd been listening to it regularly ever since then. So, to be honest, when we heard they were reviving the show, we were more than a little concerned that it wouldn't meet our musical expectations. Was that ever unfounded.

Of course, it's a bit funny to see some of the stuff today that caused such shock 40 years ago, but the message of the show is still a good message: practice more tolerance and love of others, and don't be afraid to be you.

The actors were terrific, and there was a good deal of interaction directly with the audience. Actors would come down the aisles and dance with show-goers, dance on the seats in front of them, swing their hair in people's faces, etc. At the end of the show, the audience was invited to join the cast on the stage to dance and sing "Let the Sun Shine In," which was so very cool.

If the traveling show comes to your city, go see it. It's not for kids, though.

Thanks again, Jeff, from both of us! It was the best wedding present we got!

Kansas trip, part 4

Okay, so this is getting really long and drawn out. Okay, okay, yes I said I would post yesterday and didn't...sorry!

So we're up to Monday. We did a little of this and that before heading over to Brad and Bob's for lunch. Brad had invited my mom to lunch because she was anxious to see them and the remodeling, and he also invited his mom and her husband to lunch. In all the years I've known them (hmm...that would be about 28 years!) our moms had never met, and Brad thought that would be a fun day, which it was. We had good conversation and great food that Brad made, again, that boy can cook like nobody's business. It was a great afternoon. After lunch, we took my mom over to the mall to Waldenbooks so she could pick up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love, which Brad's mom had recommended to my mom as reading for her flight home. Then we dropped her at her car and she drove back to her brother's, while we went back to Brad and Bob's and decided on where to eat dinner.

We wanted to eat a good steak while in Kansas, because there just isn't anything like Kansas beef. We settled on Ted's Montana Grill, which Bob had recommended. It's a chain of about 50 restaurants owned by Ted Turner, and surprise, Ted knows his steak. I had a Filet Mignon, and it was one of the best steaks I'd eaten in years. The margarita was kick-but delicious, too. The service was terrific. I would definitely go back. As we exited the restaurant, we looked to the east and the sky was purple-black. There was a strong wind and huge drops of rain began to pelt us on our way to the car. We sprinted and jumped in, and the storm gave chase as we drove the circular around the north side of the city.

The storm caught up with us, beating us with heavy, almost blinding, rain. We continued on, but the storm was nasty. At one point, we encountered a small bit of hail, but it didn't last long. I was worried that there would be tornadoes. There were tornadoes further back in the storm, but not by where we were.

We dropped the guys off and decided it would be better to go back to the room. It poured as we entered the parking garage. When we got up to the room, it was beating hard against the windows. The lightning was everywhere, and the thunder was close behind. It was a pretty spectacular show. At one point, there was a 20-minute span where the sky never darkened because the lightning was continuously striking. I am not exaggerating, it did not stop for 20 minutes and it was going all directions: cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, all over the place. I wish we had had a video camera.

Tuesday was also fun. We went to an old favorite, La Galette, a french patisserie and sandwich shop in the Delano area, and then made a drive to Karg Art Glass Gallery in Kechi. They have a gorgeous selection of gallery-quality handmade glass that they create on the premises. It's always fun to shop there. Last trip, we bought a nice piece that we have displayed in our front room as a nice reminder of Wichita. (Mark Thaut, if you're still reading this blog, you need to visit their web site!) After the gallery, we spent some time in the pool. It was blazing that day and the concrete around the pool was so hot it hurt to stand on it for more than 10 or 15 seconds.

For dinner, we went to yet another new place to me, but a longtime Wichita staple, Felipe's, which is a Mexican food place. The food was good (I had carne asada tacos) and the margaritas were fabulous, and for $7 each, I was in heaven. You can't get a $7 margarita in New York, that's for sure. There was way too much food on that plate, and I left feeling like a stuffed pig.

On the way home from dinner, we stopped at one of my favorite stores anywhere, Dillard's, one of the few non-Macy's stores left in the country. I have always loved Dillard's and dearly missed it when I moved from Kansas. After I moved from Atlanta, that's when they got a Dillard's there. Every trip back, I try to make a stop in. I bought a couple of shirts there that I have received a number of compliments on when worn. Definitely worth the stop.

As we drove back to Brad and Bob's, I phoned a friend of mine whom I recently renewed contact with when I learned that her husband passed away. She has been in poor health and I wanted to see her on this trip because I don't know if I'll get to see her again. You know how sometimes when you change jobs or move or both, you lose track of people? Well, I had lost track of Dorothy for almost 30 years, but thought about her often. We used to work together at Beechcraft (yes, the plane-maker) and I often drove her home when we had to work overtime, since her husband usually drove her to work in the morning. At the time, we only lived a mile or so from each other. She was a good friend and a good cook, and no one told funnier jokes than she.

So when I had re-established contact, she had mentioned she was in poor health and it was sometimes difficult for her to breathe or walk. Since that time, she's had to move from her 3-bedroom home of 50 years into a studio in a assisted living facility, and she has told me she thinks she will have to move into more of a nursing home setting soon because she is needing medical care more and more often.

We've had a number of nice phone conversations since re-establishing contact, but I wanted to see her in person and had called her at the beginning of the trip to see if it could happen. Unfortunately, it wasn't a great time for her as she was having a lot of tests over the weekend. I called her two different days and both days, it wasn't going to work for her. But magically, on this our last night of the trip, I called and she said she was up for visitors. It was a 25-minute drive and we only got to spend about 20-25 minutes with her, but it was 25 minutes I will treasure for the rest of my life. I am so glad I got to see her again, and she was glad to see me and meet Jess.

She called me on July 4 to see how I was doing and we had a nice chat. It's time for me to call her.

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel and headed for the airport for the trip home. It had been a lovely trip with lots of memories rekindled and new memories made. A trip I wasn't exactly thinking I was going to love turned out to be one of my nicest in a long, long time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kansas trip, part 3

I hope I haven't bored you to tears with this very long report.

So, we slept in Saturday morning because we were exhausted. The reunion invitation said to arrive at 11:00 a.m., so we got up around 9:30 to get ready. We made a quick drive past Brad & Bob's on the way there, so that we could pick up the gallon-sized container of bean salad I had made. I was anticipating about 80 people to show up and, like my mother, I made enough to feed at least half that size crowd.

It was a lovely day for Kansas in June: what could have easily been a day with temps in the high 80s or even 90s was actually in the mid-70s and with a slight breeze. It was nice.

At any rate, one of the things I have always liked about Wichita is the speed with which you can get around the city. Nothing is more than 15-20 minutes away, even if you're driving from the furthest edge of the city limits west to the furthest edge of the city limits east, and north to south can be even quicker.

We left Brad & Bob's and drove on over to the zoo (oh, yes, did I mention that our reunion was held at the zoo?! How apropos.) and made it inside 8 minutes, arriving promptly at 11:00. Having paid our admission (yes, we had to pay to attend...I generally eschew paying to see family members other than my immediate family) we went through the entry gates, where we ran into one of my cousins and his wife who were toting their food in. I introduced Jess and my cousins, and my cousin says, "Wow, that's good! You remembered my name!" This gives you an indication of how long it had been since I attended a family reunion (16 years, but who's counting?).

Once inside, I placed my salad and then began helping some cousins get the food tables prepared. I talked with a few cousins, and Jess moved to the back of the pavilion and sat down at a table to wait for me. Meantime, people came up to him and introduced themselves to him. One of them was my aunt, who has always had a dry wit and has always spoken her mind. She was describing where she fit into the family and who was there that was in her family. As she pointed people out, mostly the men, she quipped, "...and they're all the same!" in a tone of exasperation. It's so her. And it's so true.

I was happy to see a lot of people at the reunion whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Two were cousins whom I had only heard about and never met. You see, my mother is the youngest of her 8 siblings, and I am her youngest child. Her oldest brother was about 15 years older than she, as I recall, and so his oldest children are only a few years younger than my mother, who is 83. He and his family moved away from Kansas before I was ever born, and they didn't come back often. Generally, only my uncle would come when returning to Kansas, so I didn't ever know his children at that time. I met two of them for the first time when I was about 25. The other two, I met for the first time at this reunion. I'm 48. By the way, not going to a reunion for 16 years has its disadvantages: people stay the same age in your head as when you last saw them, and it's a bit jarring when you see them again and the children they had who were 5 or 6 the last time you saw them are grown and have kids of their own.

My bean salad wasn't alone on the salads table. There were three other bean salads there, and I was not happy. That would mean a lot of leftovers, and I hadn't been counting on having to take stuff back with us. Oh, and remember I said I had made enough to feed about 40 people? Well, there were about 40-50 people who showed up, and not all of them would eat bean salad, especially not when there were four to choose from, so we did wind up with a lot left over. But it would turn out to come in handy later.

The meal was good, and there was plenty to eat: there was barbecued brisket, a large tray of deli meats and cheeses, and pulled pork, among other things. There were deviled eggs, potato salad, and lots of other picnic foods that my family is good at, and everything was pretty good. I was impressed that so many had brought home-made food, because in past years, KFC and the like had been making appearances. You have to know my family and its cooking heritage to understand what a travesty that is, but the kids were always happy to eat it, so no harm.

The desserts table was ridiculously appointed with enough desserts to feed at least 100, if not more. I didn't make any desserts, but my mom had. I didn't know what she had made, but I had a guess or two. My mom is a the best baker in the family and nobody's stuff usually even comes close to hers. Jess had picked up a couple of cookies and a small piece of some blueberry-type dessert. I was more interested in a german chocolate cake that my cousin had made, and surprisingly, it blew every other dessert there completely out of the water. It was spectacularly heavy and moist and the coconut-pecan frosting was sinful.

So I asked Jess about the cookies on his plate: "How are those?"

"Ermm....these are okay" he said, pointing to a sandwich-style cookie that looked familiar to me. "These oatmeal are really good, though."

"So, what flavor are the sandwich cookies?"

"Ummm...cookie flavor," came the reply. He really didn't know what they tasted like.

"Oh, well, I'll skip those, I guess. I thought they might be lemon or something, they kind of look like something my mom makes. What about the blueberry stuff?"

"Eh...not terrific."

"Okay, so I guess I'll skip that, too."

I went looking for homemade ice cream, because there is always a lot of it at our reunions. I found a lot of empty ice cream freezers. My mother tried to pull me away from the last ones left, but too late: my cousin's son, who had made the ice cream that was remaining, noticed my rummaging for ice cream and offered his. He had made chocolate almond. My mother said under her breath, "you really don't want that," but I didn't feel it would be right to just say, "Oh, never mind, I don't really need that," since that would have been rude. I peered into the container. There was quite a bit left. It didn't look chocolate so much as a very pale tan color. There were lots of sliced almonds in it. Lots. Hmmm.

He had done a great job of roasting the sliced almonds before putting them in, but there were just too many of them, and there was almost no chocolate flavor. I was disappointed, but oh, well. Meanwhile, I had a chat with my mother:

"So how is that?" she asked dryly, knowing what the answer would be.

"Um, it's okay. It's not very chocolaty and there are too many almonds, but it's okay."

"Well, I tried to steer you away from it!"

"Okay, yes, I know. So what of this did you make?" I inquired as I pointed to the cookies.

"Oh, I made some lemon sandwich cookies, oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies, and I also made that blueberry dessert there."

Fuuny. So my mom had made the sandwich cookies that were just ehhh, and the blueberry stuff that wasn't great. What happened? I attributed it to her not having her own kitchen to work in. I was glad I hadn't tasted them so I wouldn't have to have told her that I wasn't crazy about them. Her lemon cookies are usually some of her best.

We had a couple of animal visitors while we were eating. One was a blackbird that kept jetting through at breakneck speed, at a very low altitude...low enough that people were ducking wildly as it buzzed through, to get out of its way. The other was a large peacock, who made his way in near the end of the thing and stood there and screamed loudly, demanding to be fed. We ignored him.

Here's the peacock.

So, we left at about 2:30 and went back to Brad and Bob's. They would be having a little party for us that evening and had invited some other friends of ours to drop by. We took a nice dip in the pool to pass the time until the party, and Brad had put out some delicious appetizers. Brad always manages to get me hooked on some food type of thing, and this time it was crackers. Keebler Town House FlipSides. He had bought them to go with a dip he served, and both the crackers and the dip were quite addictive. The crackers were Town House cracker on one side, pretzel on the other. I don't even like pretzels much, but I couldn't quit eating them. In fact, when we got back here, I promptly went out and bought a box.

My friends Russ, Richard, Randy and Darrell came by and we had a great time and some wonderful food. Brad had prepared a barbecued brisket that was delicious and some beef short ribs that were just simply spectacular. He also made some delicious au gratin potatoes and we put out the leftover bean salad from the reunion. What a terrific meal. Jess and I have still not stopped talking about those short ribs. Damn, that Brad is a wonderful cook.

Russ had closed on a new house earlier in the week, and so we wanted to see it. We made a short 15-minute drive to the new place, which was as far west as the city limits go. He had made a very good buy - Wichita is an aircraft manufacturing town, and with the economy in the tank, aircraft orders have gone right out the window and so have a lot of Wichita's jobs, forcing people to move elsewhere as they look for work. The place was huge. And behind it, in the backyard (or the back 40, as it were) there was this gigantic, two-story barn-type storage shed with a covered side area to put a boat under.

The house visit ended our evening - we dropped Brad and Bob off at their house and headed back to the hotel.

Sunday, after a stop at the church I had attended growing up (where I saw people I hadn't seen in 30 years) my mom and I went to lunch and then went to Russ's parents 50th wedding anniversary, which was concidentally planned for the weekend we were there. What a trip. Again, people I hadn't seen in years...some as many as 35 years. Russ's mom and my mom used to work together back in the day. Russ started attending school in my district in my class in the 5th grade. We became friends quickly. We didn't know at the time that our mothers worked together, but we quickly found out at a parent-teacher night when they ran into us at the school. We lived on the same street, about 3/4 of a mile apart. So we knew lots of people in common, and a lot of those people came to the anniversary party. It was more fun than I thought it would be.

Sunday night, we went to a seafood place called Bonefish, and the food was good. It's a chain, but a pretty good one, and the service was particularly nice. As one is so prone to do in Wichita, we ran into someone in the restaurant whom Brad and Bob knew. It's a small world, especially when you live in a town of less than 500,000 people.

Tomorrow, I'll blog about the remainder of the trip, which had some excitement...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Kansas trip, part 2

So we rented our car, left the airport and went straight to the hotel for check-in. The Hyatt Regency is the city's newest high-rise hotel and it is right on the river bank. While he was reserving the room, I had directed Jess to get the highest floor available with a corner room, and he did. We were on the 15th floor in a corner room with a spectacular view facing the river and looking south down the river. Lawrence Dumont baseball stadium is located on the opposite bank and I was surprised that there was a game going on almost every night we were there.

A view down-river from our room. Click to enlarge to see the detail of the metal architecture work on the bridge, which is repeated on the next bridge upriver, and lit with neon at night. All the photos are courtesy of Jess - thanks, hon.

The view of the stadium from our room by day...

...and at night!

Jess made our check-in and as we entered the room, he said, "Get this. The name of the person who checked me in was Pandora."

"Pandora?! As in Pandora's Box? Who would name their kid Pandora?"

"Well, somebody did. See? It's right here on the card she handed me. Pandora."

That was not really a very nice thing to name a child. She was a very lovely young woman.

The fountain in front of the hotel as seen from the room.

We called our friend Bob to tell him we would be over in a few minutes to discuss dinner plans. Being downtown, I knew that we would be close to Brad and Bob's house, but I didn't know how easy the new road surrounding our hotel had made it to get to. We pulled out of the hotel parking lot and made a right onto what has now become a service road for the hotel. That road then crosses the river in about 1/10th of a mile. We drove about fourteen blocks, turned onto their street and drove less than 2 blocks to their house. Since we would be spending most of our time with them, it was a terrific location.

Bob suggested Sabor, a Latin place downtown that was relatively new, as a place for dinner. We hit the supermarket to pick up some ingredients for a bean salad that I was making for the reunion lunch the next day and then made the short drive to the restaurant. I was impressed with how the "Old Town" area of downtown Wichita has continued to grow and flourish. In the area where Sabor is, there was a nice parking garage to accommodate the traffic for the Warren Theatres, and a number of restaurants and shops built around a large public square where people gather to enjoy the evening. The evening may be spent listening to local musicians who come down to play if you're lucky.

So we walked into Sabor. There were three other couples in the place, it appeared to be a quiet evening for a Friday. We ordered an appetizer of tostones, patties of green plantain that are fried crispy and then served with a savory mayonnaise-based chili dip called "pink sauce." I also ordered queso with corn, which was served with chips and herb pita bread and was outrageously addictive. I could have made a meal of the appetizers. A delicious red sangria helped to wash it all down.

Service was conducted at a very relaxed pace...a little too relaxed for me...and the place quickly began filling up. By the time dinner arrived, the house was filled...and noisy.

For the meal, I ordered Beef Picadillo: beef tips which were served, or rather, swimming, in a roasted tomato molé and chipotle cheddar mashed potatoes. The molé was highly spicy and piquant and, while good, a little over the top in seasoning and spice. The potatoes, on the other hand, were fabulous. As I got to the end of my beef, there were two pieces that weren't quite cut apart. The meat had been fork-tender, so I began to cut into the juicy bits with the fork, but it was a piece of gristle that was keeping the two pieces together and not just meat. As a result, it didn't cut easily and so I moved the fork into a different area of the piece to cut it again. The next thing I knew, the stubborn piece of meat had flung the the highly spicy molé into my eyes (owwww!) and all over my shirt. I was a splattered mess, and I knew that the shirt was probably ruined. Tomato-based stuff is hard enough to get out, but roasted tomato plus chocolate is a combo for disaster.

On the way home from the restaurant, Bob suggested a stop by the new location for the Keeper of the Plains statue, which was given to the city in 1974 by American Indian artist Blackbear Bosin, as a tribute to the area's native American Indian heritage. Bosin was half Kiowa and half Comanche, and his art is widely known throughout the central Midwest. The Keeper, which had been in a bit less prominent location since 1974, has been given a large pedestal and its own park area which is connected to other park areas by suspension bridges that frame the area nicely.

The Keeper of the Plains offers a blessing to the sky at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. The modern suspension bridges near the statue, one of which is seen left of it, are a nice architectural touch.

A plaque that tells the story of the sculpture is located at the base of the pedestal.

Jess photographed Bob and me on one of the bridges.

A partial view of downtown Wichita as seen from the suspension bridge near the Keeper monument. The building in the center, the former Holiday Inn, is now condominiums, but in 1976, while the building was still a hotel, a maniac named Michael Soles went to the 26th floor and, using a rifle, shot 10 innocent victims on the streets below. Three died. This prompted security measures to be put in place for downtown skyscrapers. In our hotel, you had to have a room key to control the elevator...and it knew which floor you were on and wouldn't let you go higher than your own floor.

We left after that and went back to the house, where Bob tried to Shout out the stains on my shirt, but after four or five stain treatments and washings, we gave up. They were still visible.

I quickly assembled the bean salad for the next day's lunch and moved it to the refrigerator. We were really impressed with all the improvements Bob and Brad had made to their kitchen: new granite counters, new ceiling tiles and lighting, new appliances, including an induction cooktop-equipped range, which I loved, and a French-door refrigerator with an interior water dispenser, which was also very nice, beautiful leaded glass inserts (which Bob made by hand) in the china hutch and in several of the overhead doors, and new stools for the peninsula, which was just a bit longer than before. And in the dining room, a new table and chairs brought a more modern feel to the room than the old antique oak table and Victorian highback carved chairs, while remaining classical with Danish furniture made in the style of Stickley.

And in the backyard, a new stone path to the pool had been laid, and new landscaping elements had been added. Truly, right out of Architectural Digest.

Brad made it home from work and we chatted a bit about what we would do Saturday evening, since they were hosting a little get-together for us. We finished things up and went back to the hotel. The reunion was the next day, beginning at 11:00 a.m...