Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Summer Reading 2011

Normally, I like to whip up a personalized review for each book that I read. However, I've decided to skip the written review and use an asterisk rating system instead. Like the Goodreads star rating system, it goes like this:

5*'s = It was amazing
4*'s = I really liked it
3*'s = I liked it
2*'s = It was okay
1* = I didn't like it

1. The Zen of Zombie, Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore. Two*'s feels a little too generous but whatev.

2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. There were a few flaws but I'm still going to give it 5*'s.

3. Bossypants by Tina Fey. She is amazingly creative and funny but this book wasn't so 2*'s.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. 4*'s.

5. A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. 4*'s.

6. NurtureShock, New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson. 4*'s. Interesting read.

7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. 4*'s.

8. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. 4*'s Mesmerizing memoir about loss.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Festival of Nations

The International Institute of St. Louis holds its annual Festival of Nations celebration on the last weekend in August in Tower Grove Park. It's usually super hot and super crowded but always worth the effort! As it turned out though, it wasn't very hot today, only about 85. And, as expected, it was such a great experience: food, entertainment, and vendors selling gifts from around the world. By chance, we happened to see a performance by an all-girl taiko drum & tap group from Japan (via NYC) called Cobu. They played and danced for like 30 minutes and, I gotta tell you, it was so, so exciting! And, what high energy! I'm not sure when/where you might get to see them around St Louis but, if you happen to see that they're performing, go see them!

A very attractive but not so tasty coconut drink.

The souvenir that got away! I so should have brought this. So, so sad that I didn't. It was from the Russian Booth at the Festival.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Last Photo from MOBot

I'm trying to get my desktop cleared off and I realized that I forgot to post this photo of Willa from our recent trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden. I love that she's still an agreeable model!

Summer 2011 Part II - Colorado Trip

In addition to the huge amounts of eating out that we did this summer, we took in some non-eating activities too. I'll recap the St. Louis ones next post but, for now, here are a few photos of our July trip to Colorado. I LOVED Colorado and took a million photos, most of which are not posted here. If you'd like to see more, click HERE and HERE.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Jerky shop near Rocky National National Park
Willa getting a henna tattoo in Estes Park, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park
Zapata Falls, near Sand Dunes National Park
At a cowboy concert at park in Estes Park, CO
Lucky penny at Colorado National Monument
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer 2011 (aka Avoiding Reality, Part I)

It's that time of year again when I head back to school. Of course, it is always accompanied by that disappointed, sick, guilty feeling about having been too lazy or disorganized to do the things that I really wanted to do this summer. You know, all those house repairs and projects that were left untouched, those books that went unread, those art/craft projects that were put off, those people, places, and things that I wanted to see left unvisited. And, don't even let me get started on all the professional things that I should have done so that I was better prepared for the beginning of the school year! Ugh and double ugh. So, in an effort to make myself feel better, I'm going to do what I do best: avoid reality and blog instead :) Think of this as my version of the quintessential, "What did you do during your summer vacation?" essay. For ease, I'm going to answer this essay question in a series of blog entries. Part I, this entry, will focus on a few St. Louis eateries that I've frequented this the summer. You might find if you visit this blog again, down the road, that I've added to this entry. But, here it is, off the top of my head. Enjoy!

Old Favorite: Apollonia. What to say about Apollonia? Love the Greek food here! Plus, it's inexpensive. And, the service is terrific. My only request if you go there: don't ask the owner, who is Greek, to go "talk Greek" to your table. Poor guy never gets to enjoy his meal for all the requests for "Greek speak." (google images)

Old Favorite: City Diner. We end up here a lot because it's within walking distance from our house, inexpensive, and kid-friendly. Plus, the food is decent, the milkshakes are great, and the atmosphere is diner-y. (google images)

Old Favorite: Local Harvest Cafe. Haven't eaten a terrible meal at this green cafe yet (see their website for details regarding their greenness). And, you can't beat half price wine by the glass on Wednesday and half price wine by the bottles on Thursday. (google images)

New to Me: Jimmy's on the Park. Had a delicious salad (greens, marinated pears, honey-sugared walnuts, blue cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette), vegetarian entree (spinach and artichoke cake with marinated mushrooms and aspargus), and dessert (triple chocolate with strawberry drizzle and whipped cream). Delish! (google images)

Old Favorite: Pappy's Smokehouse. Best. BBQ. Ever. But, you better get there early or order it to go because: #1 You might have to wait for a LONG time to order and to find a place to site, and #2 Selling out of those smokey meats is always a real possibility. (google images)

New to Me: After having heard a lot of positive reviews over the years, we finally made it to Banh Mi So earlier this summer. While the Vietnamese food wasn't awful, it wasn't super great either. (google images)

New to Me: Basil Spice on South Grand Avenue. Order the Pad Thai (heat 3) and follow it with the Khao-Nuea Ice Cream, which is steamed sweet sticky rice with coconut milk and served with ice cream. Delish! (google images)

Old Favorite: Gelato at Gelateria del Leone. My current favorite flavor is the salted caramel. Also, in the same photo (building to the right), you can see Pho Grand. I love Vietnamese food and Pho Grand serves up some of the best in St. Louis. My go-to order is Vietnamese iced coffee, an order of eggrolls, #2301 Vegetarian Special (stir fried tofu and vegetables served with rice or noodles (I always get the rice), with or without curry (I always get the curry). (google images)

Old Favorite: I love the Shaved Duck. First, I love that everything here is tasty. And, second, I love the beer menu. Third, I love the atmosphere. Fourth, I love that we can walk here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Missouri Botanical Garden

Okay. Can't decide if I should maintain my blog using Tumblir or Blogger. Opinions anyone? I guess it doesn't matter when you don't post often. Gotta get better about doing that! In the mean time, here are some photos that I took at the Missouri Botanical Garden today. Our great St. Louis weather today made this visit possible. Love going here.