Category Archives: Photography

Hawaii Vacation: North Shore Tour

Day 3 (continued): Kahuku & Sunset Beach

Since I had to bail early on the surfing lesson, Mikey finished up the last half hour without me.  Soon after, my body finally exited its state of nausea and replaced it with hunger. Time to eat!

Kahuku Food Trucks

We loaded our belongings into our Jeep Liberty rental and headed north into Kahuku. Eventually, an open area along the left side of the road opened up. Home to food trucks, fruit stands and little souvenir shops, it was a perfect place to pop in for some outdoor eats. We settled in at the Kahuku Shrimp Thai Food truck, and I ordered up a hearty helping of pad thai. Dee-licious.

kahuku shrimp thai food truck

kahuku shrimp pad thai

kahuku shrimp food truck stop

kahuku shave ice

We also perused the souvenirs housed in the colorful wooden cottages next door to the food trucks. They offered a great selection of sarongs and traditional Hawaiian wood-carved keepsakes.

Kahuku Farms

With full bellies, we packed ourselves back into the Jeep and headed south along the North Shore road to our next stop — Kahuku Farms. Mikey, Dad and I love to go beach-hopping. The beaches are usually our number one priority when traveling to Hawaii. Mom likes it too, but she likes visiting the fruit stands and farmer’s markets along the road even more. Because, let’s face it, St. Louis isn’t really known for setting up fruit stands along the side of the road, and if St. Louis did, the selection would certainly be lacking in the tropical fruit department.

Kahuku Farms wasn’t far from our lunch spot. So we pulled over to take a gander.

Star fruit and mangos and kiwi, oh my!

The ever-exotic dragon fruit

Pineapples lined up saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Bananas on a wire

Mom was very pleased with her purchase. Although I can’t remember what her purchase was. Cassava something?

The sweet spread of Kahuku Farms fruit I enjoyed for breakfast the next day.

The sweet spread of Kahuku Farms fruit I enjoyed for breakfast the next day.

I was particularly wowed at the star fruit and dragon fruit. I’d never actually seen them in person. And I had never actually tasted dragon fruit. (Minus the dragon fruit infused beer that Michelob Ultra used to make.) There was also mango, papaya and jack fruit the size of my head. And to represent the Midwest, there was even corn on the cob for sale. We left Kahuku Farms with a few Ziploc bags of sliced fruit — kiwi, mango, papaya, guava, pomegranate seeds, pineapple, star fruit and dragon fruit. They were perfect for munching at the beach or in the car.

Sunset Beach

Next stop:  Sunset Beach. The last time we were at Sunset Beach was six years ago. The experience then was much different from the experience we had this time around. The beach was pretty packed. (We were nearly lonesome the last time.) The surf was way, way up. (The water was almost pool-like the last time.) And short periods of rain kept creeping in behind us. (The sun was working overtime the last time. We were hard pressed to find a shady spot.)

Nevertheless, Sunset Beach is still one of our favorites. It doesn’t matter how or when you go. You really can’t complain when you’re in this kind of paradise. And the waves provided great photo opportunities for Dad and me.

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sunset beach 4

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Dad McGuyver’d a sun blocker with our beach towel.

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Wave at its peak

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It was fun watching these guys brave the waves.

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Can’t take credit for this awesome photo. Dad was the guy behind the lens.

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Looks like fun

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Like a big ole glob of toothpaste

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Here it comes!

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Hang loose!

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One with the ocean

Mikey and I spent a good deal of time swimming. Quite a workout, considering how powerful the waves can be. It took some muscle to stay in one spot. In fact, a girl from the group next to us was caught off guard by one of the incoming waves and fell under for a few seconds. She came up gasping for air and in a good deal of shock. Her friends were there to calm her down though. Just goes to show how close an eye you have to keep on those incoming kahunas.

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sunset beach 12

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After swimming, we camped out in the shade for a few minutes. A short spurt of rain came through, causing us to break out the beach umbrella. In true Hawaiian form, the rain stopped by the time we got the umbrella set up. And then a colorful surprise peeked through the trees.

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Mikey guarding our station

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Hanging out at the beach underneath a shade tree. This is the life.

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Somewhere over the rainbow…

A few minutes later, the sun began to set. And what better place to be at sunset than at Sunset Beach.

Unfortunately, there were low clouds blocking our view of the sun just as it set over the Pacific. But Dad managed to snap some good ones.

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Photographer/videographer setting up his shot

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Group pic minus our photographer

And that concluded Day 3. We drove the long road back to Lola’s house and hit the hay to rest up for the next day — snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.


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Sunday at the Orchid Show

I don’t know about you, but this winter has done an impressive job of chaining me to my couch for weekends on end. I really have had zero motivation to get out of the house lately. I also apparently have had zero motivation to blog too, considering that my last post was almost a month ago.

Last weekend, however, was a different story. I wanted to get out of the house and do something. And although I nearly turned down the outing to stay home and do chores (lame), Mikey convinced me otherwise. I got dressed, grabbed my camera bag and headed down to the Missouri Botanical Garden for their annual Orchid Show.

I instantly felt better inside the showroom.

MOBOT Orchid Show 1

MOBOT Orchid Show 2

MOBOT Orchid Show 3

MOBOT Orchid Show 4

MOBOT Orchid Show 5

MOBOT Orchid Show 6

MOBOT Orchid Show 7

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MOBOT Orchid Show 10

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The Missouri Botanical Garden has conducted research in Madagascar for 25 years now. The showroom was a stunning display of orchids from the Madagascar region. It was a warm, tropical welcome to the snow-covered parking lot outside.

I’m no stranger to orchids. They grow wild back on Guam, where my family is originally from. So it’s pretty comical that Mikey and I paid $16 to see a 5,000 square foot display hall to get a glimpse of these beauties. We can and have seen them growing like it’s nobody’s business off the side of a coconut tree back home.

However, I can’t in any way, shape or form claim to be an orchid expert. Four years ago when we first moved into our house, my best friend gave me an orchid as a housewarming gift. It was a gorgeous white cymbidium orchid with flawless petals. Sadly, in the four years I’ve had it, I have not been able to get it to rebloom. Mikey likes to irritate me and tell me it’s dead (as any guy would), but the leaves are dark green and healthy. And in the past couple months, there has been some new growth. I’m determined to get the thing working again. Just need to find the time to figure out what’s wrong.

To round out our Sunday Fun Day, we left the garden and drove down the street to O’Connell’s Pub for Guinness and what could arguably be the best burgers in St. Louis. Because you know, nothing goes better with flowers than a good burger and a pint of Guinness.

Quite the change in scenery from the garden, but the food was delicious. So I'm not complaining.

O’Connell’s. Quite the change in scenery from the garden, but the food was delicious. So I’m not complaining.

A great day overall. Here’s to more Sundays spent off the couch and in the land of the living!


Filed under Photography, St. Louis

A Holly Jolly Christmas

Christmas went a little like this…

Clockwise from top left:

  1. Me and The Bear after opening gifts at the parental units’ house. His bone is about three-fourths conquered.
  2. My niece, Delaney, and her favorite person in the whole wide world, Granddad.
  3. My parents’ Christmas tree, sporting everything from new glass ornaments purchased in recent years to old school ornaments that my brother and I made when we were kiddos.
  4. Teddy’s Christmas dessert. Even the naughty ones deserve something nice.
  5. A Christmas tradition. We find the most massive bone we can find at PetSmart and gift it to The Bear because he dominates bones like a boss.
  6. Me and the hubs, donning our Christmas green.
  7. Playing reindeer games at the Patrick family gathering. Mikey’s team won the blow up balloons and stuff them in panty hose, then put them on your head, along with a pair of antlers challenge.
And then…

Clockwise from top left:

  1. I gave Mikey a beer brewing kit for Christmas. Guess you know what he’ll be doing this week.
  2. Too much Santa Claus excitement?
  3. A wise old owl I got at the Patrick family ornament exchange.
  4. We evened out the Naughty cookie bone with a Good Dog bucket filled with 10 brand new tennis balls for The Bear. The back of the bucket is customized with his name.
  5. My bro, one of three photographers in the house on Christmas Eve (me and Dad included).
  6. Nothing like brand new tennis balls to decorate the house, turn the living room into an obstacle course and collect clumps of Teddy fur along the way.

Annnnd, last but not least, these photo collages were made, thanks to the new Photoshop Elements software that Mikey got me for Christmas. Now I’ll be able to do endless layouts for Everything Glitters and my scrapbooking projects. And since Photoshop Elements was bundled with Photoshop Premiere Elements, I may be able to add moviemaker to my resume some time soon. Hooray! Another hobby to consume more of the time that I don’t have.

Hope your Christmas was very, very merry, merry!

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Filed under Dogs, Family, Hobbies, Holidays, Photography

2011 Christmas Card: Take 28

Shutterfly has long been my go-to website for ordering Christmas cards. There are hundreds of designs to choose from, and if you time things just right, you can usually get them on sale for a good price. Here’s our little collection that’s been going for three years strong now.

In 2008…

In 2009…

In 2010…

Since 2011 was the year of my big girl camera buy, I was able to experiment with the self-timer feature on my camera and a tripod to get a good shot of the three of us to grace our Christmas card. It’s usually my parents who get behind the camera to photograph us. But this year, I wanted to try it ourselves. And the verdict is that I’d prefer not to do it that way again. Why? Two reasons.

Reason #1: It’s really, really ridiculously difficult to get The Bear to focus on the camera when there’s no one standing behind it, making loud squeaky sounds or saying things like cheese, bacon or steak to get his attention. I resorted to placing a treat above the lens and then darting away to get in the shot. It worked for about 3 out of the 30 shots we took, including none of the following three below.

Take 7

Take 8

Take 9

Reason #2: If you think The Bear is impatient, Mikey is about 10 times worse. I wanted to get the perfect shot. He wanted to watch football. And the big difference between him and The Bear is that I can’t lure Mikey with loud squeaky sounds or the words, cheese, bacon or steak. On second thought, I take that back. Mikey probably could be lured with the words, cheese, bacon or steak.

So thrilled, he can hardly contain himself.

When is all is said and done, we turned out with a great Christmas photo. The Bear actually gazed right into the camera in shots 26, 27 and 28. And 28 was the lucky winner. Thanks, Shutterfly, for another great Christmas card.

Happy Woodgrain Wishes Holiday Card
Click here to browse Shutterfly’s holiday card collection.
View the entire collection of cards.


Filed under Dogs, Family, Holidays, Photography

A Year Ago on Guam, Part 1

I can’t believe it’s November already. And that Thanksgiving is only hours away. And that Christmas is right around the corner. And that 2011 is close to being history. Thinking about how quickly this year has flown by has got me thinking about what I was doing around this time last year. I’ll give a hint:

If you guessed traveling from St. Louis to the tiny little island of Guam that I call home, you guessed right. Last November, Mikey, my parents and I spent two weeks on Guam, visiting family and celebrating Thanksgiving the island way (which means indulging in a spread of food that’s 10x more endless than your brain can even begin to process).

To sum up the trip in a sentence just wouldn’t do it justice. But in a nutshell, it was unbelievable. You see, I was born in Michigan and at eight months of age, my dad got stationed at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. Since both my parents are from Guam (Dad born on Maui, but raised on Guam and Mom born and raised on Guam), it was a treat to be headed home to be close to family. But after five years, Dad received his next set of orders to Ft. Worth, Texas. And it was back to the states we went.

We went home to Guam twice since leaving in 1990 — but all for unfortunate reasons. In the early 90s, we went back for the death of my grandfather and again the following year for the one-year anniversary of his death. The next visit was in 2007 for the death of my grandmother. Never had we been back to Guam for positive reasons — to enjoy the gorgeous tropical isle that Mikey had never seen and that I couldn’t even remember and reconnect with family and friends that we’d missed for oh-so long.

I’ll say it again — the trip was unbelievable. So unbelievable that I’m going to relive it for the next few days on the blog. Because as we gradually slip into these frigid winter temperatures, I naturally wish for sun and sand and island food. In fact, this is prime time for me to start thinking of 2012 vacations. This dose of nostalgia ought to get the vacation wheels in my head turning.

Visiting Two Lover’s Point

One of the first tourist sites we visited was Two Lover’s Point on the northern end of the island. What is it, exactly? You can tell by the photo above that it has amazing views of the coast line and miles and miles of stunning blue ocean. Some of the prettiest shades of blue I’ve seen.

But the significance of Two Lover’s Point can be traced back to an old Chamorro (Chamorros are what we call Guam natives) legend. The legend tells the tale of star-crossed lovers (very Romeo and Juliet -esque) and  involves the daughter of a Chamorro chief who fell in love with a Chamorro boy. Problem was that the Chamorro girl had been betrothed to a Spanish captain. When she learns of the plans for the arranged marriage, she and the boy flee. The Spanish captain catches word of their escape and he goes after the two lovers, chasing them into the jungle. Eventually the captain and his fellow soldiers corner the boy and girl at the edge of a cliff (the one pictured above), and instead of succumbing the captain’s demands, the two lovers turn around and leap to their deaths into the sea. All for love.

Now Two Lover’s Point has become both a popular tourist site and wedding ceremony location for the Japanese. I think we were the only non-Japanese speaking tourists on the tour — as was the case for nearly every tourist site we visited during our stay. Fortunately, it wasn’t too crowded, so we got a number of decent photos without accidentally elbowing the others.

Miles away from the STL.

In the distance, you can see Hotel Row.

The deep blue sea.

Water turns to waves.

These two lovers will not be jumping into the sea.

Not sure what the significance of the luggage tag is, but hundreds of luggage tags adorned the gates and railings at Two Lover's Point. Most include handwritten inscriptions.

There’s a lot more on Guam to come. Stay tuned!

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Filed under Family, Photography, Travel, Vacation

Frank Lloyd’s Pad

To continue our sight-seeing adventures from our visit to Oak Park earlier this month, I give you… an outside look at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio. Yes, outside. I say that because the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust doesn’t allow photography inside the home. Which is lame. I understand the whole preservation of objects thing. But what makes it so lame for us is that beginning in November, the trust is conducting a test-run that will allow visitors to take photos inside. We, unfortunately, were visiting a month too early.

Anyway, despite the no-photos rule, Mikey and I woke up early on the morning we were scheduled to drive back home to St. Louis and braved the much cooler Chicago temperatures for some Starbucks and a stop into Frankie L’s pad.

If you’re unfamiliar with Frank Lloyd Wright, he’s known for developing Prairie style architecture. A few characteristics captioned below.

Clerestory windows -- which basically means any windows above eye level.

Photo courtesy of ArchitectureStyles

Projecting or cantilevered wings. See how the right side of the first and second floors jut out from the house?

Photo courtesy of Hinsdale Architecture

Low-pitch hipped or flat roof. You don't see many gables here.

Photo courtesy of Offbeat Travel

Prairie style was an all-new form of architecture at the time (late 1800s, early 1900s) and turned heads because it was so vastly different from the popular Victorian Era homes. In fact, walking the streets of Wright’s home today, you’ll find Victorian style homes everywhere. Ernest Hemingway’s birth home was distinctly Victorian, and it’s only a few streets away.

Across the street from the Wright home and studio is a very red, white and blue Victorian style home. And there are plenty more down the street.

But you may be surprised to know that Wright’s home was not built in Prairie style. It was constructed as Wright was experimenting with what would later become Prairie style architecture.

Facing the front of the house. Quite a large gable there.

Frank's front door.

But there are examples of his experimentation all throughout the house. We saw how the home’s color palette was reflective of its natural surroundings — greens and browns were consistent throughout. We saw clerestory windows in the master and children’s bedrooms. And we also saw how Wright tried to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces as evidenced by the space in the middle of the house where a live tree once stood. Its roots were once beneath the house, while its leaves grew up and out of the roof.

His studio was probably the most intriguing part of the tour. Seeing it was like watching an MTV Cribs’ episode where the C or D list celeb walks into his master bedroom and says “this is where the magic happens”. (Except the C or D list celeb was our tour guide and Wright actually did make architectural magic in that space.)

Since I wasn’t able to get any interior photos of the studio, I was able to photograph the columns outside the studio entrance.

Wright incorporated icons into these columns that were symbolic of the services he provided. From the top, down, you'll see a book to represent wisdom and knowledge, the storks to represent fertility (i.e. success for his clients as a result of his work) and the architectural artifacts in the center to represent his skill and expertise.

And right after I snapped this pic, the place started flooding with tourists. I still managed to get some other exterior photos as I creeped around all stalker-style around the perimeter.

This is one of my favorite pics from the tour. A reflection of the home's natural surroundings right in the clerestory window.

Sculpture above the studio

The house is right off Chicago Ave. All streetside parking.

We say goodbye to Frank's pad and Oak Park as the crowds start to make their way in.

I guess the good thing about not being able to take interior photos is that I didn’t give away the entire tour for you. Now maybe this outdoor peek has piqued your interest enough to go see the interior.


Filed under Photography, Travel, Vacation

Back from the Lake

We made the three-hour drive back home from the Lake of the Ozarks today. My parents, Mikey and I rented a lake house, dubbed St. John’s Hideaway, for four days and experienced nothing but pure R&R (and lots of eating, of course). With only six channels of local television, limited Internet access via slow iPhone connection and a 30-minute drive to the nearest mall, disconnecting from the toils of technology and complications of the real world was pretty easy.

Of course, while Mom, Dad, Mikey and I were lounging, The Bear’s energy level was reaching record highs — as it always does when he comes nose to water with a lake. As my past blog photos have shown, Teddy has never met a lake he didn’t love, and the Lake of the Ozarks might just be his favorite.

Since Dad is a big photography buff (and I, following in his footsteps), we both got a big kick out of the endless photo opportunities Teddy provided throughout the trip. The Bear’s quick movements and inability to hold still for more than two seconds make it a (fun) challenge to try to get the right shot. There’s also the difficulty of 1 ) trying to block your lens from Teddy constantly shaking the water off his back, 2) trying to hold steady while the dock is rocking as if it’s on the high seas and 3) trying to not fall into the water like an idiot. Despite all the challenges, I got some pretty good pics of The Bear.

Ready for action.

Off to save his dad.

A 75-pound splash.

Gracefully gliding through the water. Maybe "gracefully" isn't the right word. He was huffing and puffing like a horse from the workout he was getting.

Swimming till the sun goes down.

Aside from all the dock diving, we did our fair share of other lake-appropriate activities.

Dad took lots of photos.

Mikey played grill master.

Mom enjoyed some vino.

And I enjoyed a few bottles of my designated chick beer of choice for lakeside sipping.

So it’s back to the grind in the morning. And as always, I’m ready to plan our next vacation. Where to next?

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Filed under Dogs, Family, Photography, Travel, Vacation

Weekend Diptics

I recently discovered Diptic. It’s an iPhone app that I downloaded a couple weeks ago, and it might as well be called Adictid because addicted to Diptic is what I am. The app allows you to combine and lay out photos with just a few taps on the screen. And this is the first app I’ve ever paid for. All other apps on my phone I got for free. Because I’m fabulously cheap like that. Suffice it to say, I think Diptic was worth my $1.99 investment as the weekend snapshots below go to show.

The weather this weekend was absolutely beautiful. Perfect for rolling the windows down, sticking your nose out and drooling profusely all over the side of the car. If you're a Bear.

Nothing makes me smile more than seeing a bunch of dogs frolicking at the dog park. I love it when they all get in the pool together and lay down to relax like they're at the spa. Oh, and the two stick pics were taken in our backyard. A delightful discovery made by The Bear.

Good food makes for a good weekend. Clockwise from top left: 1) Katie's Pizza menu 2) Prosciutto Spring Rolls from Katie's 3) Summer squash on the grill 4) Glass of Opala Vinho Verde, enjoyed by yours truly.

And now that we’re two days deep into the work week, it’s only a matter of hours until our lake vacation begins. So stay tuned for some lakeside Diptics coming up!

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Filed under Dogs, Family, Photography

Views of the Lou

A few months ago, I came across a blog called Beautiful LOU. The blog concept is simple — a running collection of iPhone images snapped around St. Louis. And to live up to its name, they’re all beautiful. Here are a few to gawk at.

St. Louis City Hall

St. Louis Cardinals

City Sunset

The beauty of St. Louis is an interesting concept. This is the city that has twice ranked #1 as the most dangerous city in the U.S. And I’m not calling that out as something to be proud of or as a way of criticizing the Gateway to the West. I’m pointing out the fact that the ranking doesn’t prevent me from loving the Lou.

I work downtown. We venture to Washington Ave. for dinner. We go to hockey games at the Scottrade Center. We take the Metrolink into the city. We love the City Garden. We do overnight stays at many of the hotels downtown for birthdays or anniversaries. And I wish more people would do the same.

As Beautiful LOU goes to show, there’s beauty in the old brick and stained sidewalks. So much so, that I thought I’d share my personal collection of photos from around town. Take a looksie and enjoy.


Martin Luther King Bridge from Illinois into St. Louis

On the Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour

La Riviere, City Garden

A wedding pic. This is the church on St. Louis University's campus, where the hubs and I tied the knot.

And who could forget the Arch?

P.S. If you have never been to St. Louis and are going to be in the Midwest anytime soon, you should check out this video below of all this city has to offer as well as this recent city spotlight that appeared on Design Sponge.

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Filed under Photography, St. Louis, Travel

Sparks fly on 4th of July. Especially when Elvis is in the building.

It was a sweltering 4th of July weekend for those of us in St. Louis. But luckily, the weather cooled off for us on Monday night. Just in time for us to catch the fireworks show at Fair St. Louis under the Arch downtown. Unfortunately, the scene at Fair St. Louis wasn’t as picture-perfect as I thought it would be. Even though we arrived 45 minutes before start time, the Arch grounds were packed to the max. Our search for the ideal fireworks-watching spot was a major fail. We ended up underneath the row of trees that line the sidewalks. Therefore, our view of the fireworks was completely obstructed by tree branches, leaves and a sweaty dude who for the life of me, could not keep his arms, head and baseball hat out of my photos.

I did manage a few decent shots. Fireworks are naturally hard to photograph, and I must admit I shot these in auto mode. I didn’t study up beforehand to figure out the right settings, so I took the easy way out and flipped the dial to auto. Next year, I’ll try to be more prepared.

Fireworks weren’t the only dose of sparkle we got on the 4th of July. The Riley side of the family threw Grandma Riley an 85th birthday party on the 4th of July and surprised her with a birthday serenade from an Elvis impersonator. If you knew Grandma Riley, you’d know that a monumental event like this is right up her alley. This is a woman who has been known to hand out scoops of ice cream to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. (Literally, a scoop of ice cream in your son or daughter’s candy bag.) She has also gone down in history for sending a live turkey on Thanksgiving to a neighbor who incessantly bragged that she made the freshest turkey in town. When the live turkey was delivered, the inscription read, How fresh is your turkey now?

So in a nutshell, you could say that Grandma Riley has spunk. And at the age of 85, when most folks start to take pride in their grumpiness, Grandma Riley is still having fun. Catch a couple photos of her and the King of Rock ‘n Roll below.

He ain't nothin' but a hound dog.

As Grandma Riley would say, "A beer a day keeps the doctor away!"

So I think it’s obvious that this year’s 4th of July was a blast. (Both in the fireworks sense and the um, blast from rock ‘n roll past.)


Filed under Family, Holidays, Photography, St. Louis