Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Not My Uncle's Lake of the Ozarks

It seems that as soon as I find a place I dearly love, the Universe has a way of either shutting it down or making it so darn popular that it loses it's oddball appeal.
~Rossino's (basement Italian where the waiters and tall guests dodged pipes)– closed
~Saleem's (where garlic is king) - closed
~Blueberry Hill and the Delmar Loop-too touristy; less Rocky Horror-y
~Broadway Oyster Bar – too packed and busy; less uni-sex bathroom whose door barely shuts
Although I suppose it is great for those last two businesses that their appeal has transcended the rather specific, cash only, beer in bottles crowd which frequented them when I first discovered them. And those two places that closed? Well, they had been in business for decades. I am sure the owners needed a vacation.
Consequently, I am taking a huge chance by writing this.

We had the pleasure of spending the weekend at Lake of the Ozarks with two of our three dinner club couples. The plan was for shopping one day, sailing the next and  in between a whole lot of delicious food and wine.
For those not familiar with Lake of the Ozarks – it is a gigantic man-made lake in the center of Missouri. Easily accessible from nearly every state boarding. It is a mere three hour drive from the Coast of Illinois. Both my husband and I grew up vacationing here – spending time on power boats with skis strapped to our feet then eating at motor-boat fish joints along the lake. In the evening we were entertained by Baldknobbers and folks hawking Indian Moccasins and salt-water taffy.
(Yes, I know 'Indian' is not the political correct term, but back in the 70's that is what we went with. And if you haven't heard or seen a Baldknobber, well, I am sorry. Click here:baldknobbers.com  Although I am sad? to say, the show has moved to Branson, Mo)

Anyway. There is a certain expectation when one vacations at Lake of the Ozarks. And trust me, it is not a high one. (Think tin-shower rustic and deep fried fish.)
So, I can tell you first hand what a treat it was to stay at Shawnee Bluff Winery.
(as per usual, this is NOT a paid post)

The location is near the main drag, just a mile or so from the Ozark Yacht Club and the Bagnell Dam strip and perched on a bluff overlooking the lake. Shawnee Bluff may have the absolute best view of Lake Ozark that I have ever seen.
morning view looking up lake

evening view looking down lake
The Winery has eight units, each with a slight variation of this amazing view. 
Granite stone cottages, always adorable.

Red doors. What's more inviting?
Our rooms, recently renovated, were a nice mixture of modern and rustic. And clean. Very, very clean. 

tiny but unbelievably clean bathroom

AND a choice of in room wines...
The patio furniture supplied to each unit was old, but functional, and exactly what is expected when you vacation in the Ozarks. 
Rob feeding the local animals....
Thanks to widely varying plans, our group met up around 5pm. Just in time to catch the evening music guest. (Shawnee Bluff has live music Friday 5-8, Sat and Sun 1-4 and Saturday evening 5-8.)
pool/patio with bar. yes, that is an enormous wine bottle spritzing into the pool.
We opted to sit on the Winery patio and grab dinner. The menu is small offering several appetizer choices, wood-fire pizzas with a variety of toppings in both traditional and flatbread styles. Burger options and several main course selections round out the menu.
I chose salmon served with rice and broccoli – quite delicious. The wood-fire pizzas are amazing and the burgers looked to be a great choice.

Of course, this is also a winery.
And I must, in the interest of full disclosure mention, that I am not – overall- a fan of local wines. We have found a few Chardonnays made in Missouri and Illinois which are 'okay'. Rob really enjoyed the Flappers and Philosophers Chardonnay made by Shawnee Bluff. It was light and crisp and quite nice with the salmon or to just sip while enjoying the view.
Local red wines, in my opinion – which is not educated or scientific in any manner – tend to taste a little like the soybean fertilizer used in the region. However – Shawnee Bluff's Que Syrah Syrah was fantastic – to the tune of two bottles over two days. It was slightly peppery and had just the right amount of body to enjoy on a brisk spring afternoon. 
The winery offers a nice variety of their house wines and a small but nicely curated menu of nationally produced varieties. They also have good options for beer, if you are so inclined. 
Our second day's activities, which I will go into in a later post, were cut short due to excessive wind and a lack of a sit-down eatery at the Osage Beach Outlet Mall. So we returned to Shawnee Bluff for an afternoon snack. Once again, we were treated to music and some surprising appetizers.
Rob and I ordered the Charcuterie Platter- a nice array of cheeses, salami, crackers and toasted pita with the most amazing little goat-cheese stuffed roasted peppers.
Those peppers, next to the grapes. OMG!
The real star of the afternoon food-fest were the Sweet Potato Fries. 
They took a little longer than anticipated to arrive at our table but they were absolutely worth the wait. The 'fries' were more like huge wedges of fresh sweet potato which had been roasted, my guess is in the wood-fire oven, to a nice brown on the edges and melt in your mouth softness throughout. They were served with a BBQ sauce to dip in.
They did not last long. 
So tasty I almost didn't get a photo!
Rooms at the winery go for around $120 a night and guests receive 10% off their food, wine and gift shop purchases. I should mention that the music is easily heard from the rental unit patios. However, as the music and the winery itself pretty much shuts down by 9pm this never caused an issue with sleep. The Vineyard, which is about 15 minutes away, also hosts concerts from time to time and winery guests can take advantage of a shuttle to and from.

If you ever find yourself in need of an Ozark vacation, I would highly recommend Shawnee Bluff Winery.
Just please don't book ALL the rooms when I decide to go there. 

Links to click on!

And as mentioned previously, this is not a paid post. However, I am willing to negotiate for the second weekend in September...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Thank Heaven for AMC

With alarm clocks that go off at 5AM-ish, it takes a lot to get me and my husband to stay awake past 9pm on work nights. 
Enter 'The Night Manager'. 
Thanks to John LeCarre's novel of international intrigue and those television geniuses at AMC, Wednesday mornings are pretty rough. 
The 6-part series based on LeCarre's book is wonderfully written, exquisitely acted and beautifully filmed. 
Plus it is just the right length. Six parts is just enough for people like us who have commitment issues with anything other than smartly written then cancelled comedies (Cougar Town/Happy Endings), shows about zombies (Walking Dead,ONLY!) or Hockey Playoffs (Let's Go Blues!).
(I feel I must point out here that the NHL playoffs are WAY past 6 episodes.) 
The Night Manager has given us a bright spot leading into mid-work-week entertainment. It is overflowing with luxury, romance and danger! ~said with a uber fancy, unidentifiable European accent.
It has also sparked some fabulously stimulating conversations:

Why would you screw around with the 'new' guy when the wealthy bad guy is not that bad looking, has all the money, and will probably kill you? 
Is our living room bigger or smaller than the interior of that private jet? Really? So it's about couch size?
How can you NOT shout from that balcony looking over a crowded street in Istanbul - 'Why DID they change it?'

I don't want to sound ungrateful. I have a wonderful life. But it is so fun to consider the possibility of jetting off in designer caftans to eat lobster salad which has been commandeered by the boss's number two guy. 
Or actually shopping in that jewelry store that sells those gem studded animal pins. Not that I have much use for gem studded animal pins. 
But I could totally get use to lounging by the pool at my Majorcca compound overlooking the Med.

So in an attempt to counteract my lack of exotic locales and glamour, I have vowed to start carrying around a briefcase with fancy locks and answering my phone with the greeting 'Hello Ducky!' 

Yet that doesn't change the fact that the only international intrigue I have is ' How did this get here???' 
This is a hairnet. Seen lying in wait by a work elevator. It seems they have started a counter-insurgence. I hear through my sources it goes by the code name Spiffy. 

Write you next book about that LeCarre!

Friday, May 6, 2016

For Nurse-Moms Everywhere. Not Nursing Moms - that is something completely different

My kids were screwed from the start.

Their dad is in law enforcement and I am a nurse.

Our dinner conversations sounded like a page from Darwin's Theory of Evolution Playbook:

'Drinking a jar of pickle juice will NOT change the results of a urine drug test.
It WILL make you puke.'
'If the DOG won't eat the ground beef, then you probably shouldn't either.
You will get food poisoning.'
'The palm of your hand DOES NOT go IN FRONT of the nail gun.'

They learned the two pearls of wisdom nurses live by: 
 'If you can YELL then you can breathe.
'All bleeding stops eventually...' 

I had no idea how much an impression our work discussions made until I raced home from a night shift for a parent-teacher conference. I barely made it onto the tiny 4th grade desk for my arranged time. The teacher laughed. It seems our son had informed her that – and I quote - 'Mom will be on time, unless somebody shows up at change of shift trying to die.'

It was somewhere around this moment that I became dubbed the meanest Nurse-Mom in our house.

But, I make no apologies. In this house, we take ALL the antibiotics – even if they taste like rotten raccoon guts. If the fever is less than 102, I am pretty sure you will live; drink some water and take a nap. Unless there is a BONE sticking out of that wound you are STILL going to school.

You get the idea.

I am going to let you in on something I don't think the kids ever knew.

Even though I appeared less than compassionate, I spent a whole lot of nights jumping to exotic conclusions.

Headache – has to be an inoperable brain tumor.

Joint aches – obviously Guillain-Barre

Nausea and vomiting - inoperable brain tumor.

As a Nurse-Mom, it is impossible to not project all your patient's diagnosis on your family.

It is also impossible to not project the love for you children onto your patients. Which is why I could never take care of children when my kids were little.

And now that they are adults, if one of my patients is within ten years of my kids' ages, I see them lying in that bed.

And I thank God that it is not them.

I know most Moms exhibit a lot of the qualities I have described. But Nurse-Moms are educated to see and react in a particular manner which simultaneously identifies a problem, devises a plan and achieves an outcome. In nursing school we spent hours writing out this process for every imaginable diagnosis.

It's called a Care Plan.

We wrote them on 4x6 note cards and stored them in a recipe file.

And be warned, children, it is only going to get worse.

I have an entire file of plans to address every adult ill you may encounter with a special sub-file for grandchildren.

Because we Nurse-Moms are the meanest moms around.

Obviously these two have some sort of thyroid issue.
Today - May 6th is National Nurses Day, the culmination of National Nurses Week. If you know a nurse, give him or her a hug and let them know YOU know how important and difficult their job is.
Sunday is Mother's Day -Moms come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They may not even be related. But if they spent at least one sleepless night worrying about you  take a minute and give a special person in your life a hug and let them know YOU know it wasn't always easy.
And if you are lucky enough to have a Nurse-Mom, please wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough, but give them an extra big hug all the same.

If you would like to read more about my life as a nurse - please click on the 'It's a Living' tab at the top of this page.
Now take your vitamin and go for a walk. That fresh air will do wonders. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016


I tried to look up the last word beginning with 'Z' in Webster's Dictionary. The result was this:

z: noun, often capitalized often attributive/ ze, Canadian, British, Australian 'zed, chiefly dialect

the 26th letter of the English Alphabet

-used in the phrase X, Y and Z to refer to the third thing in a group of three unnamed things.

Not as helpful as I had hoped.

I considered writing about the dream I had in which Avril Lavigne was trying to kill me. She was chasing me through this old house which was full of secret rooms and passageways. All the while Avril and her assistant were discussing how they were going to slice me into ultra-thin slices like you get at the deli.


Get it?

But then we spent the morning in Soulard, one of my favorite neighborhoods, had some breakfast and went to Soulard Market.


round here we pronounce it 'pie-knees'.


Rhubarb, the AARP of fruits... vegetables?

I am not sure what the grin-y guy with the flute gives lessons in..I don't think it has anything to do with tamales. or parties.
Three totally unrelated, albeit named here, things.

Except they aren't unrelated.

I grew up with peonies. I love how full and frilly their blooms are. I had never seen them sold by the stem until today. And I had forgotten how lovely they smell. As I sat them on the dining room table I was suddenly back at the farm where I grew up, playing crazy made-up games and trying to avoid helping in the garden.

The garden where my mom grew rhubarb. I absolutely love rhubarb sauce – on pancakes and biscuits and spoons. I also love rhubarb pie. I am torn between the two and only have enough for one.

Both of these purchases were made at Soulard Market. Where, outside under an awning in the rain, sat the three musicians. There is at least one guy out there every Saturday morning plinking away. They laughed when I asked if I could take their picture and explained they felt the need to prove they were real authentic buskers by continuing to perform, despite the weather. I tossed them a couple of bucks and told them I understand. My brother is a musician.

He was the first one to encourage me to return to writing years and years ago.

And it was this A to Z challenge that brought me back to remembering just how much I love writing. It has returned me to the habit of doing so every day.


I can not believe I have actually managed to complete this challenge. It has not been easy some days. I would like to say everyone but me believed I could do it, but the fact is, I don't think anyone really did. Which is okay.

Coast of Illinois will return to weekly posts once again. Not for lack of interest. I have decided to challenge myself a little more and am beginning the process of writing an actual novel, once again. I am breaking the process down in monthly increments.

Rest assured, I will torture you all with my progress.

And hopefully have a rough draft by the end of the summer...

Thanks to Mary over at Jingle Jangle Jungle, Alana at Ramblin With AM and Leanne at Cresting the Hill – you ladies may not have known it, but knowing you were also working on this challenge and reading your posts kept me motivated.

Friday, April 29, 2016


I am addicted to the 'On This Day' feature on Facebook.
I crack myself up reading my mostly ridiculous posts.
I get teary eyed at some of the photos and events that prompted certain comments.
I wonder just what was going on in my cerebral cortex when I come across some of those cryptic updates.
Apparently April 29, 2009 was not a good day. There was a huge thank you from a previous co-worker, who I miss every single day, as well as a plea to stock up on coffee for the following work day – posted at 1am. I worked 10am-1030pm back in those days.
In 2010 I was on my way to a Jimmy Buffett Concert – my second as a Parrotthead and the first tailgate we participated in.
In 2011 my Mom and I got up freakin' early to watch the Royal Wedding via our respective computers and Skype. It should be noted that we live about 2.5 miles away from each other. It should also be noted that Mom put on make-up, her fancy robe and we each had tiaras.
Light up tiaras.
The blob on the computer screen facing outward is my cat Lord Irwin Joseph Stalin. He used his full title for the wedding.
The following years, up to today, included two blog posts - 2014  and 2013, food posts, work posts. But it was the 2012 post that caught my attention and brought me to this little trip down memory lane.

April 29, 2012 was a Sunday.  I complained about house cleaning, eating Snickers with Almonds, watching Lawrence of Arabia. My final thoughts for this day were posted as a Facebook Note. I  had not yet discovered blogging. The note was about a lovely evening Rob and I had on the deck. It was a very, everyday event but it just had that special something which makes the everyday extra-ordinary. This is for all of my nearly legendary contemporaries. Thanks for all the support, encouragement and insane inspiration.

Dinner on the Coast of Illinois

Of late, I have been suffering from what some 'Genius' in the 1970's labeled 'empty nest syndrome'. And, while closing up the first year of my official 'midlife', I am no where near the Sandwich Generation. Because not only are our children self sufficient, so are my parents. 
Which brings me to my very non-creative Sunday. Weekends are my time to forget what I do for an actual living and pretend to be someone I am not...or only hope to be. I want to write; be a writer. Yet, the past few weekends have betrayed me. Abandon hope all who enter here, there are no original thoughts to be had. This Sunday was no different. Children and their plans for their future ricocheted through the phone lines and my text messages. A small storm of gigantic hail proportions made it quite clear that the clean up job I was hoping to skip would be addressed. Laundry and groceries only cemented my feet more firmly in the roll of wife-slash-mother. 
Then suddenly in a flurry of veggie prep and fish marinate, I was sitting on the deck with my husband enjoying a crisp glass of Chilean white wine and the near sixty degrees at six thirty in the evening at the end of April perk of Global Warming. He was reading a book by a contemporary of Hemingway, I was reading a much more fluffy article in one of the many magazines I had dog eared in hopes of getting to. We pondered the lifestyle that could bring such interesting people together in such amazing places. I told myself the article – about the closing/remodeling of the Ritz in Paris – was research for a future novel. In actuality, it was a pipe dream. I will never get to stay in the Ritz, in Paris, in the 40's with Hemingway. 
And then my husband did something extraordinary. He raised his glass in a toast to the day, to our dinner...to the Coast of Illinois. We clinked to the fact that the people who are the most important to us are healthy and happy. And it was clear to me that while I have never stayed in the Ritz in Paris, I have stayed in some pretty swanky hotels. I have eaten and prepared some five star meals and my contemporaries – writers, photographers, musicians, artisans, athletes - are just as legendary as those of that bygone era. They just don't know it yet.

 And so it goes...on this day in April, on the Coast of Illinois.
May every day be an extraordinary ordinary day.
Only one more day in the A to Z challenge!! So close...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X Has Been Solved

I was going to go all 'Seinfeld' on the letter 'X'.
You know, "what's the deal with 'X'? All the words that sound like they start with 'X' really start with 'E'. And the words that really begin with 'X' sound like they start with 'Z'. What's up with that? Is 'X' the most lazy letter in the alphabet? Or the most mysterious? It's like the World's Most Interesting Man...if Man were a letter..."

But then Kramer burst in and reminded me that I actually do have an 'X' story.

See this?

It's a Marching Band Xylophone.
Aka Bells and for the uber fancy, a glockenspiel.
And I played one.
One time.
In 6th grade.
Because I was the only kid in the class who could read music, play the piano and was dumb enough to think that a 90 pound girl would have fun carrying a 150 pound all metal instrument back and forth to school on a bus.
That last one may have been the desperate band director's thought.
It certainly didn't have anything to do with wanting to look cute and attract 6th grade boys.

Thank heaven my parents weren't those 'you signed up for it, you have to finish it' sort of parents.
But they were the 'don't attract cute boys' sort of parents...


I think I have figured out their evil plan...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


We have a half dozen fully mature trees in our backyard.

This is my favorite:

It was once a tiny maple tree which had been cut down but re-sprouted and now has a trunk made up of the equivalent of four full grown trees. It canopies a third of my backyard providing a high rise for squirrels and birds to live, work and play. Occasionally it throws a branch and takes out our power, but I feel the tree and I have come to an understanding.

That tree also does this:

(Please note the American Horror Story noises in the background.)

It is Whirlybird invasion season.

They fall at a rate of three thousand per wind gust. It sounds like a rapidly advancing rainstorm when they attack.

Which means it has become a race to rake them from the flower and vegetable gardens and pull them from the gutter before they sprout into tiny maple treelets.

So, I am off to rake and scrape.

And sharpen the chainsaw.

Hear that Maple Tree?

(Phew! Made it through 'W'. Any ideas for  'X'???)