630 feet high

That’s how high the Saint Louis Gateway Arch stands.

It doesn’t appear that large in the distance. We visited Eero Sarrinen’s architectural marvel on our pre-Christmas, whirlwind trip to Saint Louis. (You can read about our other adventure here and here.) So I can tell you from experience, it is indeed quite tall. When you get right under it, you have to crane your neck to see the top.


It is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. (Which begs the question, what is a nonman-made monument, and how high does that stand?)

 My Uncle came with us, so we got a family photo. Those are far and few between. Aren’t we adorable, one-shoed child and all?

Inside, we found a variety of attractions including the Museum of Westward Expansion, movie theaters, and of course, the ride to the top.
We attempted the museum, but the baby kept trying to climb into the exhibits.
So, we purchased tickets to the top. And up we went. The elevators are an experience of their own. They rock and grind the whole way up, and they are quite tight. Somehow,  they squeeze five people in. The doors have little windows and you can see the the stairs and numbered landings that run along side the elevators.
And finally we got to the lookout on the top.
There are little windows to looks out on each side. Kennedy loved it. She kept exclaiming “ah-plane!,” which is toddler speak for ‘airplane.’  Isn’t that brilliant?
In my opinion, a bird’s eye view of a city will always be a good one.
For the history buffs, this is the courthouse where the Scott Dred case went down.
And, for the sports fans, I believe this is where the Cardinal’s play.
They have the highest point marked. A photo op at 630 feet up.
After gaping out the windows for about a half hour, we rode down the same elevators. The second time was equally invigorating. (Although this time, we didn’t have to share our elevator car!)
What better way to end this post than with one more image of the beautiful steel exterior?



On The Road Again

Yesterday’s post chronicled our brief Memphis adventure, a stop while enroute to Saint Louis, the Tuesday before Christmas. The next morning we got up and continued on. BTW- we spent the night at the Pear Tree Inn in Cape Girardreau, Missouri. It was a decent price, clean and had a good breakfast… if you are ever in the area. AND there was a Panera Bread across the street. I love Panera. We don’t have them here in Louisiana. Boo. Any hoo… we continued on our way.

Our first stop was the Mastodon State Historic Site, in Imperial, Missouri. We pulled in around lunch time. Devin, my husband, was pumped to see some dinosaur bones. A little background- the Mastodon State Historic Site is located on the Kimmswick Bone Bed, reknowned “for it’s extensive Pleistocene ice age deposits of fossils” (as written on their homepage). The park has a fossil museum, hiking trails and a picnic area. It was a huge disappointment, only because the museum is closed on Wednesdays. I swear my New Year’s Resolution is going to be to check and see when attractions are open before we are standing outside the front doors. (A similar incident happened the previous day!) We made the best of it and had a little picnic.

The picnic area was at the top of a cliff.

Somebody was very happy to be out of the car.

So happy that she stole the bread.

After lunch, we took a short hike that took us to the bottom of the cliff and over the bone bed.

Somewhere, buried deep beneath this path, lies hundreds, maybe even thousands more fossils. Kind of mind blowing, isn’t it?

After the hike, we got back in the car and headed to the Meramac Caverns.

The attraction wasn’t exactly on the way, but what’s another hour in the car? And the very idea, after all, these caverns took a millenia to form, was to full of intrigue to miss.

The entrance to the caverns were decked out in the holiday spirit.

Once we started the tour, I was astounded; I had no idea the rock formations would be so stunning.

And they are still forming, changing…

There was a formation called a”wine table.” Why it’s called that? I have no idea. But apparently there are only two known ‘wine tables’ in the world, and this is one of them.

This photo was taken in the Movie Theater Room, named for it’s curtain-like formations.

It was accompanied by an old school light show.

After that, was headed into Saint Louis.

That evening, my Great Aunt and Uncle treated us the Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo. This too, was a quite spectacular attraction.

The photo’s just don’t do it justice. (Another New Year’s Resolution: Learn to master night photography.)

Side note: I’ve been experimenting with Bokeh. Love it.

And that, my friends, was day 2 of our whirlwind journey. What a day.

A Day in Memphis

I hope your Christmas was lovely. What’d you get? Where’d you go? What’d you eat?

Our Christmas was preceded by a whirlwind trip to Saint Louis and back. Saint Louis- that’s an 11 hour drive from our little Baton Rouge home. I am no stranger to long drives, but any sane person would tell you that’s too long to be in the car, especially with a 17 month old. So we got up at 3:30 in the morning (on Tuesday) and drove to Memphis. (I was super excited, I had never been before!) That was six hours. This is what Kennedy thought of the drive:

We bribed her with Fraggle Rock videos and the promise of ducks. For the most part, it worked.

Now, you might be wondering, ducks? The first stop on our day visit to Memphis was to the famous Peabody Hotel to see the Peabody Ducks make their way to the fountain. For the past 70 years, every morning at 11 am the elevator opens to the lobby of the Peabody and several ducks race to the fountain (on a red carpet!) and spend their day there. At 5 o’clock they walk back to the elevator and retire for the day. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was. But it was worth it, we got front seats to the red carpet, and we spent the better part of the hour gaping at the duckies in the fountain.

I don’t know if it’s the 3 am wake up, the crowd, or the lighting, but these aren’t my best photos.

Ahh, the regal duck!

 Look how excited she is. It was “Ducks, duck, Ducks!” all day long!

Once we pried her away from her new feathery friends, we headed to the trolley stop. We took the Riverfront trolley. It’s route gave us a good view of downtown and the riverfront. The trolley itself was fun, very vintage, a relic of a simpler time.

(No, I don’t know those people.)

Look at the conductor’s (Is it a conductor on a trolley?) seat. Don’t think I could handle sitting in that thing the whole day.

During the ride, some locals recommended Mud Island. Mud island is a man made island that features a museum of the Mississippi River and a scale model. It was a bit far, but we decided to walk it. (After all, we’d been sitting in the car for 6 hours.) On the way we spotted the Fire Museum and stopped there. (FYI, we lucked out, on Tuesdays the tickets are half price, so it cost 6$ instead of 12$.)

I think we were the only people in the whole museum. It was pretty neat though, they had all kinds of fire engines that you could walk into and ‘drive.’ They also had a firehouse pole. (We may now install one in our next house.)

They also had exhibits on the history and evolution of the Fire Engine.

Finally, they had a room on fire safety in the home. Kennedy found another duck.

When we made it out of the Fire Museum, it was pouring down rain. We hopped back on the trolley and regrouped. eventually we decided to head to the Civil Rights Museum (it has a reputation for being phenomenal!) ….And whomp, whomp… luck was against us this time. It’s closed on Tuesdays. (Who closes on Tuesdays!?!) I am still glad we went, though. The museum occupies the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, and the building  that James Earl Grey was in when he shot him.

Martin Luther King Jr. was standing in front of his room, 306, when he was assassinated.

The whole area just feels heavy. The bright colors of the once hotel feel jarring and crass, it’s the very definition of juxtaposition.

The area around the Museum is nice- very artsy. I could have been happy spending the day walking in the galleries and admiring all be freshly renovated buildings. We walked around- heading loosely in the direction of the Peabody Hotel. It was around this time the baby passed out. Poor thing.

We found the infamous Beale Street.

I spotted Elvis. Sort of..

We couldn’t leave Memphis without trying the bbq. We had dinner at Rendezvous, known throughout the world for their barbecue. (To be honest- I thought it was a let down- but smoked ribs just aren’t my thing. And they didn’t have milk or juice or a kids menu or dessert)

And that as our day. I feel like we could have done more, but at the same time I feel like we did a lot. I would really love to go back. Actually go to Mud Island and the Civil War Music. Experience the legendary blues. Go to Sun Studios. See Graceland. Ahhh- I missed so much! One day ….

Have you ever been? Any recommendations?

Homemade Wishes

I am ashamed to say that I have never sent out Christmas cards, or really, any cards. I didn’t even send out birth announcements when my little girl was born. The guests at my wedding were lucky they received invitations. I have always wanted to, planned to even, but I am a master at procrastination, and before I know it, it is too late.

This year is no exception. I did, however, get around to making a few cards last week. (Dad- if your reading this- stop right now!) Too late to send them, but it is the first step, right?  These will go to the friends and family that I am fortunate enough to spend the holidays with. Next year I swear I’ll send Christmas Cards, I’ll start in July if that’s what it takes!

I wanted to share them with you. On the front, Kennedy stamped her hand with green paint to make a ‘Christmas tree.’  I supplemented by painting red ornaments, a brown base and placing gold stars stickers at the top.

Inside you’ll find a this year’s Santa photo (with Kennedy expressing her affection for Santa, see more on that here),and a short message stamped in silver.

The Schmitt Family wishes you much joy this holiday season (and beyond, of course.)

Happy Holidays!

Our World

I am so excited. So so so excited. I have been agonizing for weeks over what to by my husband for Christmas. He’s one of those that are impossible to shop for. He has may interests but they are all too specific for gifting. He doesn’t read for fun. Clothes won’t do. To be honest, I usually default to beef jerky. But not this Christmas.

This Christmas I got creative. I have seen a lot of maps on Pinterest and around the blogosphere.

Like…

vintage-framed-map-pin-board-frame-art-travel-project-how-to-diy-cheapNail Wall Art World Map, Bold and Beautiful PalettePinned Image

from http://www.younghouselove.com/2008/02/the-frame-game/http://www.etsy.com/listing/73262666/nail-wall-art-world-map-bold-and?ref=sr_gallery_15&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=map&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_page=3&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmadehttp://astepinthejourney.blogspot.com/

I love the idea of personalizing a map, showcasing our travels. Devin, however, would not be truly impressed with a simple framed map (ever the critic).

I wanted something unique, something oozing with masculinity. This is what I came up with:

I used wood planks as my ‘canvas’ and nails to outline the land masses as well as document the places we’ve been. You can’t tell from the photo, but I used shorter nails to outline the continents and longer nails on our various vacation spots.

I love it! It isn’t the world’s most practical ‘map’ (1 nail covers as entire state, or even country in some cases) but Devin and I will know what each nail means. Plus, it is truly a art piece. Even if he doesn’t like it, I do. But how could he not like it?

Here’s how I did it:

The first step was to go in search of a world map. A map of the US of A would have been much easier to find, not to mention much easier to complete this project with. But I didn’t want to send the wrong message, we will travel the world one day. So a world map it was. The map needed to have each continent in one piece. Turns out, this isn’t the easiest thing to find (and there was no time to order one online). I settled on this one from Hobby Lobby:

Next, I found some 2×6’s in the Garage (I swear our garage is a bottomless pit) and cut them down to 37 inches. I wanted to use what I had on hand, But I’d recommend using thinner wood, 1′ thickness would be better. This thing is way too heavy! Then I linned the 2×6 planks up and used a thin line of Gorilla Glue to glue them together

I then found some more scrap wood in the garage and glued two pieces vertically along the back. Then I nailed it together. Then I sanded the whole thing down. I forgot to take a picture of the back, but here is the front at this point:

Next I stained the wood. I used 1 coat of leftover ebony stain, but it came out way to dark. So I sanded it down and applied 2 coats of mahogany stain.

Now to the fun part!

Once the stain dried, I taped my map to the front of the wood planks.

And I got to a-hammering. I hammered around the perimeter of each continent. All this was done during naptime and it’s simply amazing that all the banging didn’t wake the baby up!

I was very liberal with the perimeter, the nails only loosely follow the shape of the landmass. As for small islands, I experimented a bit, but I found it best to use a single nail to represent it. If we ever travel to one of those islands, I’ll probably replace the short nail with a long one.

That’s my dog, Niki. She helped.

Canada got a little confusing up at the top. I never realized it was that segmented.

And a few day’s later, Voila! World map complete!

Then I used the long nails. Unfortunately, we haven’t been many places together, so it didn’t take long.

Then I had to pull the poster up. This was tedious work. I used an exacto knife and a pair of pliers to assist me. Although it took forever, it was kind of exciting, like opening a present…. I kept thinking, “What’s it going to look like?” and “This is going to be so awesome!”

Some of the nails came out as I tugged on the poster. I just nailed them back in. The nails that landed between the wood planks didn’t want to stay put so I applied glue to the tips.

Once the poster was off. I had to do a little stain touch up. The nails had caused the wood to split in a few areas, so I used a thin paint brush to stain those areas. After, you couldn’t tell!

Yep she’s a beauty!

 Here’s a closer view of North America:

You can see we have mostly stuck to the Southeast in our travels. (At this point, my pride demands that I mention that I have been out of the US quite a few times, just not with the hubby)

Hopefully, one day, every continent will be filled with nails.

I hope he loves it as much as I do! I can’t wait to see what he is going to say!

Here comes Santa Clause

Good Morning! I hope you are starting your week with internal  bubbles of joy and excitement, just as I am. Seriously, I feel like some one slipped me something! This week is going to be another busy one.

I wanted to share the highlight of the weekend:

If you call it a highlight. Poor baby is terrified of Santa! Last year she was more indifferent.

Is it awful that I love this year’s picture?

A quick and clean diy

Some of you may remember that a couple posts about a bathroom renovation. It’s coming along, but very slowly. It’s hard to find time to play with a nail gun when you have a 16 month old running around, not to mention the holidays and the traveling we’ve been doing. But this diy isn’t actually about that bathroom. (Although one could say it was born from it’s slow progress) It’s about our half bath, downstairs.

This bathroom is your standard tucked-under-the-stairway-5’x5′-half-bath. Very difficult to photograph.  I wish I could say that it’s current state was my handiwork, but we hired a guy to redo it back when I was working. The tile, wainscoting, sink, hardware and paint is all new. It’s probably the most complete room in our house, and probably the nicest too. Can you guess what is still missing? Art! I decided to try my hand at some graphic art. From the beginning, I knew I wanted the message “wash your hands.” It is simple and bathroom appropriate. And from the mommy standpoint, I want as many letters around Kennedy as I can get (not to mention that she should wash her hands)

I was really inspired by these:

Pinned ImagePinned ImageKids Bathroom Art, Wash Your Hands, Brush Your Teeth, Set of Two, pick custom colors, size 8x10

www.4men1lady.com

 http://www.etsy.com/listing/60648253/wash-your-hands-8-x-10-wall-art-print,

 http://www.etsy.com/listing/85419992/kids-bathroom-art-wash-your-hands-brush?ref=sr_gallery_4&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=wash+your+hands&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmade

One my first try I used Photoshop and came up with the image below. I didn’t like it.  It was slightly pixelated, the black bubbles looked kind of like ink splotches, and the graphic was too similar to one of the images I was inspired by. And the colors were just a little too jarring in print.

So, a few days later, I tried again.

This time was a success! I used Indesign, which is more appropriate for this type of art than Photoshop. I love the layout and colors (btw- I used Kuler for the color palette. Never been there? Check it out, it’s a forum for color palettes, and it has all sorts of tools for creating your own color palettes. If you have adobe products, you can download the palette right into your program. It’s awesome!)

I feel a little egotistical offering this, but here’s a link to a PDF if you want to use it yourself (or give it as a gift!)- Wash your Hands. I just ask that if you do use it, you share a photo with me!

I spray painted a thrift store frame white (it took 3 coats), and I used pink craft paint to paint the matte that came in the thrift store frame pink (also three coats.)

… And drum roll please!

Looks much better! (We also switched the light to a daylight florescent, which makes the whole room less yellowish.)  I’m contemplating whether I should hang it on the wall, or leave it leaning. For now, I’d rather not put a hole in the wall.

What do you think?

I have all kinds of ideas for other kinds little messages. Like “Put your dishes in the dishwasher” for the kitchen. Ok, that was a joke; a bad one. But seriously, this graphic art thing is so easy, and it has serious potential. What message would you frame?