Eureka, MO 63025
Steamy Hot Greetings from the USA!
Dear Family & Friends,
Well here I am again sitting down to write this letter and would you believe another 8 months have past since the last letter. It is also the ideal day to stay indoors because St Louis has been under a heat advisory for the last 3 days - this means that the temp's are in the upper 90s, with a heat index of about 105 degrees. When it so hot everyone is advised to stay indoors and they set up cooling areas all over the city where people without air conditioners can go! There are also portable A/C's and fans available from charitable organizations to help out those in need.
Currently the Americans are all displaying their patriotism with the Stars and Stripes flapping in the wind and decorations of blue, white and red colored ribbons everywhere. Even the cookies and cakes on sale in the shops look like American flags! National Flag Sunday has just been and now it is Independence Day celebrations. The Stokers don't feel like patriots yet, but are enjoying the excitement that goes with the 4th of July holiday. We especially enjoyed our third National holiday with Tony's Mom and Leatitia!
Since I last wrote we were still speculating about what effect El Nino will have on our weather. Winter turned out to be much milder than normal and spring was very wet with spectacular thunderstorms. Buttons is terrified of thunder and I had a pajama parade with him under the arm every night for almost a week. Summer promises to be very warm and the predictions are that the daily temperatures will be above normal. Now they are talking about El Nino's little sister La Nina, which as far as I understand it is the unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, which could cause a drought in our area. What next???
This Spring we also encountered the cicadas for the first time. I always wondered about them when I read about it and thought they were like our Christmas beetles. They sound very similar but that's where the similarity ends. They are ugly looking creatures and the eggs stay buried for a period of 13 and 17 years. The larvae hatch and these red brown bugs take over the trees and shrubs and live for about 5 weeks. This year the 13 and 17 year cicadas coincided so it was especially noisy around here. The dogs enjoyed terrorizing them because they make a noise when one touch them, then everybody was warned to keep the pets away from them because of their sweet taste the dogs wanted to eat them and they get sick from it. What a job to keep Buttons (the hunter) away!
Tony is still enjoying his job - although working very hard. We spent a day at Six Flags with his company a couple of weekends ago. I overcame my fear and went on the roller coaster and screamed all the way. They built a new one called Mr Freeze and this ride goes from 0 to 70 mph in 4 seconds through a few loops and then a quarter of a mile straight up. It then comes to a full stop and reverse all the way back and comes to a stop 70 seconds later. Tony was all geared up to go this ride but when he came face to face with it he got cold feet - I can't blame him.
Our American adventure continues and we have been busy since I last wrote. The Autumn of 97 was spectacular and we reveled at the sight of the trees in their fall colors - yes I know I have said this before but it is really quite a sight. The fact that there are 4 seasons here makes up for all the bad weather! We went on the Katy trail with the bicycles and pedaled through trees next to the bluffs on the Missouri River. The trail is 350 miles long and used to be the old Missouri/Kansas/Texas railroad. The trail is flat and very easy to ride or hike on. The trail also goes past the Missouri Weinstrasse and we stopped at the Blumenhof winery. We had some wine and cheese and listened to an authentic oompah band. Needless to say the ride back on the bicycles to where the car was parked was much harder. Our next bicycle trip was on the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River under limestone bluffs on the Illinois side. This area is also very well known as the winter nesting area for the American bald eagle and we went back there in January and saw a fair number of eagles.
We spent a memorable Christmas at home and really got into the hype of Christmas ala American. The house was lit up inside and out with Christmas lights and we had a new 7-foot Christmas tree. The ladies of the neighborhood got together one evening for a cookie exchange and visited from house to house to view the decorations. When we got to our house Buttons showed his displeasure of being left at home with Tony by ripping one of his wrapped presents under the tree. We were also treated with a beautiful lit up train. The railroad workers decorated the Santa Fe Express train with Christmas lights, and the 5 cars were transformed into the Santa Claus Express. The train traveled trough 7 states and stopped at various places and Eureka was one of them. There were about 3000 visitors in our little town and Santa and his helpers gave candy to the kids and everyone sang carols. Our friends from Canada, the Nestels visited the week after Christmas and we had a wonderful time showing our first guests around.
Buttons got a new friend and companion - a 5 pound pedigree Maltese named Tassie. She belongs to our neighbor Nancy Sweeney and we look after her during the week because Nancy's workload is keeping her at the office till late at night. The two of them are getting along like a house on fire. Buttons however, started 1998 on the wrong foot - one snowy morning Tassie ran over the street with me chasing after her and when Button decided to follow us he ran in front of a big 4 x 4 SUV! He was knocked on the head and flung to the sidewalk and I was hysterical. We rushed him to the vet and thankfully, apart from the bump on the head and a skinned foreleg, he was not seriously injured. Then in February we left him with our neighbor Peggy when we visited South Africa and the poor guy stopped eating. When I came back he lost weight and he is still only skin and bones. However, a few days ago all his troubles were forgotten. We were out in the garden watering when we came around the house and there sat a little bunny in the driveway. Tassie saw it first and she was approaching it very carefully but when Buttons saw it he rushed the poor thing and chased it into the garage and cornered it. I have never heard such a big screech from such a little thing! Fortunately for the bunny when I yelled at Button and Tassie they left it and I could pick it up where it lay in my hands like it had fainted. Buttons did manage to bite the poor thing but the skin was not broken. After I got the dogs in the house I took the bunny into the woods where it limped away. Well for the next week every time we go outside Buttons went in search for rabbit, I am sure the taste of the bunny is still in his mouth.
Talking about our visit to SA - we had a wonderful time and enjoyed seeing all of you "okes". Pieter and Georgia had a beautiful wedding and they are now living in St Lucia where they have their own restaurant called the Quaterdeck. My poor Dad gets so confused about which kid lives where - St Louis or St Lucia! My Dad came back with me and spent 10 weeks here and we were very busy showing him around. It even snowed the first week he was here and just before he left he had a taste of the hot summer weather. One of the weekends we drove to Springfield, which lies about 3 hours southwest from us. There is a shop called the Bass Pro Shop and sells everything a fisherman could wish to have from the smallest hook to the biggest RV and boat. One can easily fit 4 rugby fields in the shop and we had to watch Dad like a hawk to make sure he didn't blow his whole holiday allowance in one go! Another first for us was going over the big rivers on Ferries. We took Dad to see the Great River Road and we crossed the Illinois and Missouri Rivers on a Ferry. One drives onto the ferry with the car and it takes about 15 cars at a time. It is a rather eerie feeling when the whole lot starts going over the river. I think Buttons can't understand why the car is moving and we are standing outside. Our friends, the Joostes visited for 4 days in May and Dad helped showing them around and we loved having them here.
Tony's Mom and his aunt Leatitia spent 2 wonderful weeks with us and we were once again very busy showing them around. They experienced the July heat in full force. Apart from all the well known tourist attractions we showed them we also drove to a small Amish town in Arcola Illinois. There we visited a theme park called Rockome Gardens, which is owned and managed by an Amish family named Yoder. This was quite an experience and we even saw real Amish people riding in their horse drawn buggies. St Louis also boasts with an open air theater called the Muny and we went to see the Radio City Rockettes. We enjoyed a sultry evening under the stars. Mom and Leatitia shopped until they dropped every single day they were here.
Another big thrill for the folks while they were here was to play the lottery. During Dad's stay the lottery prize money went up to 150 million dollars!! We played but alas a retired couple from Illinois won the money. When Mom was here the prize was 80 million dollars and nobody got it so far. It is called the Powerball and you have to select five numbers and a sixth for the powerball. You can play your own numbers or the computer can generate a number for you. It costs $1 per number and you can play as many as you like. It is rather fun to play when the stakes get so high the downside is the odds against one, but if you don't have a number you have no chance.
The house is quiet now with all our visitors gone and the dogs and I are slowly getting back in our old routine. We feel truly blessed that we had so many visitors. The rest of the year will seem very quiet, oh well I have a bunch of hobbies lined up and hope to keep busy. We are planning a trip to Chicago towards the end of August and if all goes well we are planning our next vacation in October. So far the plan is to go to Texas (Hee Ha).
Our love and best wishes to you all and please write soon!
Annelise and Tony Buttons and Tassie