St. Louis top target for getaway

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
You would think that just trying to have a little fun wouldn’t be so hard to do. Now that ball season is winding down, and the field work has taken on a less frenzied speed, we’ve started talking about going away for a few days to enjoy a family vacation before school starts.

After considering time and money factors, and after scanning the Internet, St. Louis, Mo., looks like the leading candidate for the Jost’s summertime excursion.

St. Louis seems like a good choice since we’ve never actually seen the city, even though we’ve been through the airport on several occasions.

You know, now that I think about it, Keith, the kids and I have “been” to several places that we’ve really never experienced. Unless one counts grabbing a quick snack and using the bathroom in an airport terminal as “experiencing” the city.

I can tell you about Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and New York’s J.F.K. But I’ve never seen the cities. Meg and Alex have been through the Denver airport so many times that they could probably be tour guides, but the closest they’ve actually come to seeing The Mile High City is when we vacationed in Colorado Springs.

I’ll never forget pacing back and forth like a caged animal in front of a glass wall at the Honolulu airport trying to catch a glimpse of Hawaii’s tropical beauty before we caught a flight that took us to The People’s Republic of China.

So, tell me… have I been to Hawaii? Technically speaking, yes. But do I have fond memories of sandy beaches and Polynesian luaus? No. But I remember being searched coming through customs and then having to run through the terminal to catch my connecting flight to the mainland.

Phoenix? Been there, never seen it. Houston? Been there, never seen it. Meg and Alex have never seen Dallas, except for the airport. And Keith has traveled to Geneva, Switzerland. But only for a layover in the airport.

And so, after looking through the official St. Louis Visitor’s Guide, we have decided we should go back to Missouri and see more than the bathrooms and concourses of Lambert International Airport.

Now comes the hard part: when to go, what to do, and where to stay. Trying to organize four people’s schedules is difficult enough, but when one of them is a farmer it gets a bit more complicated. If someone could only tell us what the weather is going to do in the next four or five weeks….

Now that the kids are older, they seem to think their input should carry some weight as to what to do when we get there. Alex is intent on making it to the top of the city’s famous Gateway Arch, and Meg is campaigning for a night’s entertainment at The Bissell Mansion Dinner Theatre, where the audience participates in solving a murder mystery.

I personally would like to explore the Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Everyone has agreed that Six Flags St. Louis/Hurricane Harbor amusement park, with its roller coasters and water slides, would make for a fun day.

I thought Keith might be interested in attending a Cardinals’ game, but he said he has had enough baseball for awhile. When I suggested a tour through the Anheuser-Busch Brewery he didn’t get very excited.

“But it’s free and they give out samples. Something for nothing… your favorite,” I teased.

Who knows where we’ll eventually end up. Which brings me to the question of where to stay. Do we head downtown or stay in one of the suburbs? It’s a hard call because there are so many things to do in St. Louis and, since we’re unfamiliar with the city, we aren’t sure what will best suit our needs.

One place I have gone to for help and have found useful is an Internet Web site called “epinion” (www. epinion.com). At this site, the user can select a category, such as travel, and enter a query like I did for Six Flags St. Louis. You are then rewarded with the opinions, reviews and ratings from others who have been to that place. It’s a helpful tool for planning a trip.

Maybe I should go back and enter in “weather” and “vacationing farmer” and see what turns up.

The other day, when Keith was complaining about the heat and the lack of rain, I made the comment that St. Louis won’t be any cooler.

“Should we go to the mountains instead?” my husband asked.

“Chris and Ro have sent home for all of their cold weather clothes- they say Australia’s winters are a little nippy,” I said, reminding him that my nephew and his wife have now made their home on the other side of the world. “You know we’re always welcome to visit.”

“You say St. Louis has free beer?”

I’ll get Down Under yet.

* * *

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda…sorry. Just dreaming.

Aussie Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

2 tsp. seasoning salt

6 slices bacon, cut in half

1/2 cup mustard

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tbs. dried onion flakes

1 tbs. vegetable oil

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Rub chicken pieces with the seasoning salt, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place bacon in a large skillet and cool until crisp. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, corn syrup, mayonnaise and dried onion. Remove half of the sauce, cover and refrigerate to serve later.

Heat oil in a large skillet and over medium heat, saute the chicken for three to five minutes per side or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Apply the honey-mustard sauce to the chicken, then layer each breast with mushroom, bacon and top with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and chicken juices run clear. Do not overbake. Serve with reserved sauce.

Variation: Marinate chicken in 5 oz. of Worcestershire sauce for one hour. Fry bacon and (separately) saute mushrooms in 2 tbs. of butter. Grill or broil chicken about five minutes per side. When chicken is almost finished, top with bacon and cheese. Continue to broil until cheese is melted. Watch carefully. Serve with mushrooms and bottled honey-mustard salad dressing.

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