Sunday, June 27, 2010

Creamy Jello Treat

The family walked to Jay's International Grocery on Grand Avenue the other night. The custom is that, in addition to the stuff that's on the list, each person gets to pick out one item that goes unchallenged (legality and safety being the exceptions of course). As you might guess, this item typically ends up being some sweet treat. Bill picked a black licorice candy bar. Winner! I picked a chocolate and coconut candy bar -- like Mounds but without the high fructose corn syrup. Also a winner! Willa's pick? A box of strawberry flavored DoFu. That's right, DoFu. As you can see in the photos above DoFu is a creamy jello-like product that is prepared in the same way as jello except you add milk. I say "jello-like" because DoFu is actually made from seaweed, not jello and not tofu (as I had originally suspected). The box directions recommend that you serve DoFu with fruit or whipped cream. We didn't have any fruit in the house that would complement the DoFu and the whipped cream in the frig was pretty much a relic from the Cold War. Having no other garnishing options, we dug into the DoFu au naturel. So, how did it taste? Take a look at Willa's expression in photo #4. Yes, it was that bad.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Upcoming Events

Willa and Bill at the City Garden, June 2010

I typically write about things that I do after I've done them. This works out well for two reasons: #1, most things that I do are ongoing kind of events (meaning that you still have time to do them if you feel so inclined after reading my post) and #2, most of you are probably getting your ideas and inspirations about what to do in and around St. Louis on your own so you don't need advance notice. That said though, I do like to occasionally post things here that I'm going to do in the future when there are a lot of them coming up. So, here's my big, but still brief, list of summer activities. Maybe something will catch your attention.

1. Circus Flora. We actually went last Saturday but I encourage you to go if you haven't as it is, as always, a visually stunning and impressive experience. Circus Flora is definitely a local cultural gem. Oh, and this is the last week so hop to it!

2. Off Broadway Kids Concert Series. We're seeing Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players this Saturday. Most of these concerts were initially free but due to their overwhelming popularity you now have to get tickets in advance. Yay! for musicians making money! And, yay! that kids music doesn't suck anymore!

3. Whitaker Music Festival 2010. The Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden is always a summer favorite in St. Louis. If you don't make it to at least one concert a summer you're a, well, er, you're missing out. We're planning on meeting some friends to see the Dogtown Allstars on July 7th.

4. While we're talking music, here are a few other free music venues that we're planning to hit up this summer. First, at the St. Louis Zoo is the Jungle Boogie Friday Night Concert Series. Lots of bands in their lineup so you're sure to find something that you like. Then, our friend and fab music educator, Lori Burkhardt, plays sax in the University City Summer Concert Band. They play mostly on Tuesdays nights and are a lot of fun to go and see in the Loop. Next up, and much closer to our home, in Tower Grove Park (although they play in St. Louis parks all over the city), you'll find the Compton Heights Band playing on Musical Mondays during the summer. We're especially excited about the July 5th concert -- cannons and Sousa! If you haven't been, bring a chair or blanket and enjoy the show. There are actually many, many other free venues and concert series in St. Louis to go and hear great music. These are just the ones that I plan to attend. If you have a free favorite, drop me a line so I can check it out!

5. Speaking of Tower Grove Park, my neighborhood park (yes, I'm bursting with pride about this lovely treasure!), there are a ton of fun things to do here this summer. You can check their website for details but here are a few of the things that you'll see me doing - For the kids, you have the playgrounds, wading pool and pop jets. There is also the weekly Children's Concert Series on Wednesday mornings at 9:30am. In addition to the Compton Heights Musical Mondays, you can do monthly outdoor movie nights at the pool pavilion, the Tower Grove Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, carriage rides, have lunch at Cafe Madeleine (in historic Piper Palm House where Bill and I were married!) or an alfresco Farmers Market Dinner on Thursdays on the Plaza. And, these are just the regularly scheduled events in the park. There are many super single event activities in the park as well.

6. St. Louis PrideFest. This is super fun event! And, gay or not, it's a great way to support LGBT's and show solidarity. We especially like the parade, which is at noon on Sunday. Yes, as in this Sunday, June 27th. Check out their website for the festival details. My helpful hints? Go early to get a good spot, bring lots of water to keep you hydrated, and wear sunscreen!

7. Also, at Tower Grove Park is the Festival of Nations on August 28th and 29th for "the region’s premier multicultural celebration, featuring more than 40 ethnic food booths,non-stop dance and music, children’s arts and crafts, and an international bazaar with unique gifts from around the world." Great fun but excellent, excellent food! Come early because the food vendors routinely sell out.

8. LouFest Music Festival. New this year to St. Louis is the LouFest in Forest Park on August 28th and 29th (same weekend at the Festival of Nations). As their website states: 2 days, 2 stages, 18 bands. Sounds promising.

9. Frontyard Features. A new trend in the last few years in St. Louis has been watching movies outdoors. FYF shows movies all over the St. Louis area while Laumeier Sculpture Park has been hosting its own 2010 Music + Movies every Friday well. For more information about other outdoor movies (and theatre too) click here.

10. The Muny. The 2010 season looks like a winner! Especially for kids and kids at heart! Beauty and the Beast is running now through the 30th of June. I would have liked to have seen this one myself. Never having seen the Disney movie before I think that it might have enjoyed it more. But, I don't think that we'll get to the Muny before the 30th. We are, though, thinking about seeing Cats in July. Willa loves the musical Cats. She's only watched the filmed version starring Elaine Page and John Mills so seeing it live should be a visual treat. Willa also loves The Sound of Music. Do-re-mi! Love that song. Have you seen the flash mob doing this one in Belgium? Click here if you haven't! This is so much fun! But back to Willa. She's only seen the Julie Andrews version of Sound but, I think, would really enjoy seeing it performed live. It runs in July as well.

11. City Garden. Love, love this place! We've already been a number of times this year and will go a hundred more before summer is over. And, this year, I vow to visit the Terrace View restaurant.

12. St. Louis Art Museum. The new main exhibit is called The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy. Can't quite figure out if this show will be an interesting one or not. But, it sounds like it might. Plus, supporting the arts in St. Louis (and in general) is just the right thing to do. So go. The exhibit opened June 20th and is here all summer.

13. Missouri History Museum. If you haven't yet seen the Vatican Splendors exhibit, and I haven't yet, you should get there before it leaves town. Set your judgments about Catholicism, the Pope, and all things churchy & scandalous aside and go see this exhibit. From the Missouri History Museum's website, "comprised of nearly 200 rare artworks, historical objects and cultural artifacts from the collections of the Vatican, many of which have never been allowed outside of Rome, and including special objects never before on display, even at the Vatican. The collection includes mosaics; paintings; frescoes; works by well-known sculptors; intricately embroidered silk vestments; precious objects from the Papal Mass; historical maps and documents; and historical objects from three major basilicas in Rome." You'll regret missing this once in a lifetime exhibit. It runs through September 12, 2010.

14. Miscellaneous. I've totally run out of steam so I'm stopping here. Please leave a comment if you have any other great ideas, events, festivals, etc. that I should include and/or try and do myself. There will undoubtedly be many things that come up over the course of the summer that I will post info about. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Patience as the Antidote to Anger

Photos from the MABA website

My best friends have always been anger and sarcasm so you can imagine how difficult it was to admit that maybe it was time to meet some new friends. So, wouldn't you know MABA made it a lot easier for me by setting up this meditation retreat about, as you might have guessed by the title of this post, cultivating patience instead of anger. I had no sooner signed up when I started having second thoughts. I mean, I'm not really angry, right? Anger seems so serious. Anger is out of control. Anger is always ranting or yelling or fuming about something. Sure, I do live in a relatively persistent, relatively harmless, relatively low grade state of ticked-off. Who doesn't really? I mean, I'm human after all -- I get mad! I have a family that irritates me at times (I'm sure the feeling is mutual). I teach self-centered, gimme, gimme, gimme teenagers that irritate me at times (ditto). And, if that weren't bad enough, I live in a place where it seems that I am constantly surrounded by racist tea baggers and people with anti-community, anti-environment, and pro-greed and corruption ideas and behaviors. But angry? Okay, okay, okay. You're right. I am angry. I am ranting and fuming. So, I went to the retreat. And, what did I learn? I learned that it's a lot harder to be patient that it is to be angry. I learned that it is possible to be patient without being powerless. I learned that you can still do the right thing -- be a passionate and an out spoken activist -- while still cultivating patience. And, most importantly, I learned that learning this patience stuff could take me awhile.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The (Un)Inspired Decorator

I've always taken a utilitarian approach to any home decorating that needed to be done. Couch? Check. Bed? Check. Dining room table? Check. You get the idea. Yet, that's not to say that I've never considered the color or the beauty or the form of an object, a fabric, or a piece of furniture that I purchased. In fact, I have a lot of objects around the house that were very carefully and very thoughtfully selected based almost solely upon their stylistic contribution to the room. And, I have (sometimes) made sure that the various things in each room, or in the house as a whole, complement the overall aesthetic that I'm trying to achieve. But, what I mean by 'utilitarian' is that I've never decorated a room, or an apartment, or a house using a theme (like Country French, Cottage, or Mid Century Modern, for example). Not that I would either. But, this summer has me reading my friend Joi's decorating/style blog quite a bit as well as many of the others style blogs that she has recommended on her blog roll. And while she and many of the others have not subscribed to a particular theme either they all have a terrific sense of how to put the various pieces of a room together quite artfully --- bringing me to the painful realization that I need to give a lot of thought to the decor of my house. Plus, Joi (pronounced Joey) and many of the other decorating/style bloggers are taking on these decor improvement projects on their own and on the cheap -- two things that I can get on board with (well, mostly the latter). I also like that a lot of them are using Craig's List and thrift stores finds not just because they can be cheap but because it's the right thing to do for the environment.

Bottom line, is that I've become obsessed with revamping my house's style. Doing that on a small to non-existent budget will be a challenge though. So this is what I've decided that I can do:

1. I'm suffering from a I-have-too-much-stuff problem so sorting our what stays and what goes in each room is a definite must.
2. I like color! And I currently live with a lot of it so I need to evaluate how I feel about the colors of my walls in the house. Specifically, I'm wondering if things connect and complement as much as I thought they did when I had it painted nearly 4 years ago.
3. Accessories! I really want to focus on lighting and curtains. The big plan is to splurge on some nice fabric and make my own curtains for the living and dining rooms. I'd also like to find a nice pendant or shade for my ceiling light in the living room. Not sure what I'm looking for yet, but I think I'll know when I see it.
4. I like everything about my bathroom except (maybe) the ceiling light and (definitely) the linen cabinet. I like the look of this Ikea light (shown in above photo) but I'm not sure if it's too big for the room. Plus, the closest Ikea is like a 5 hour drive from here! I'm not sure about the style of the linen cabinet but the only requirement is that it not have a glass front. We have that now and I'm tired of people seeing my mess!

Doesn't seem like a lot of stuff to do but, for me, this is a super duper daunting task. Especially because I have no idea where to start! I've tried to recruit Joi to come help me get started. But, girlfriend is very busy getting her Masters on so I'll probably have to go solo on this. Unless someone out there wants to volunteer? Do I hear a 'yes'?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lettuce and Broccoli!

The spring garden crops that we planted have just about peaked, especially the lettuce. And, while I feel bad that we wasted a lot of lettuce this season (unfortunately, we just didn't get around to eating a lot of it), we've been jamming on the broccoli. Even Willa - Miss I-only-eat-three-things -is sold on its tasty green goodness. Come on, I dare you to find a person who could not resist eating this broccoli.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review: Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates

Yes, as you can see, I am still obsessed with Richard Yates's novels. Love, love, love him. My goal is to try and read them all this summer. Not sure if that is going to happen but you gotta have a goal, right?

Anyway, here's the book summary. In Disturbing the Peace, Yates introduces us to John Wilder, an insecure thirty-something ad executive who, we learn right away, is in the middle of a midlife crisis - think unhappy marriage, job dissatisfaction, personal dissatisfaction, extramarital affairs, and booze -- lots and lots of booze. But, it quickly becomes clear that Wilder's crisis isn't really of the midlife variety. Rather, it's that he is flat out delusional. In other words, the man is mad - mad as insane, mad as addicted. Mad, mad, mad. Now, that's a good story line, if you ask me.

And, here's the review. Right from the start, Disturbing the Peace had a much different feel that the two previous Yates's novels that I've read (here and here). Yes, Yates still writes about ordinary, flawed characters who lives gravitate from a sense of normalcy to urgency, from order to chaos, from acceptance to rebellion. And, yes, Yates still writes great characters that involve us -- as clinical, distant observers and as close observers who feel, sometimes intensely, the experiences and emotions of the characters. But, Disturbing was different in two noticeable ways. First, the pace of it was much quicker; it kinda reminded me of an episode of ER - many more fast paced, crazy ER peaks, but consistently balanced by the slower paced valleys of the characters lives outside of the ER. Now, yes I do know that I wrote previously about how Yates creates a sense of urgency in all of his books, all of his main characters. And, this is true here too. Yet, it still feels different. Dare I say more urgent? Another difference? None of the characters were likable. Not a single one. And, I really wanted to like someone, his wife, his mistress, even Wilder.

As an aside, if anyone has read, or reads, Disturbing the Peace and would care to comment on the significance (or not) of including the peripheral storyline of race relations in this novel, please, please leave me a comment. I would love to read your thoughts.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Crop Mob in Millstadt, Illinois

Bill and Willa recently had the awesome opportunity to participate in a crop mob. Actually, they participated along with a group of MRH staffers and students. If you haven't heard of a crop mob, you're probably not alone. I'm not sure how popular they are in the Midwest, let alone St. Louis. But, this is how it works: a group of people volunteer their time and labor at a small farm to help build and support community relationships or make agricultural improvements. In this particular instance, our MRH group wanted to volunteer their labor because the farmer was struggling due to the recent loss of her husband. Wow. Goosebumps. Just writing about this make me feel beyond terrific! It's such a wonderfully meaningful way to contribute something positive to people in your community. And, what a great opportunity for kids (and everyone really!) to discover the joy of being able to help those in need, forming lasting connections with others through service, and, for many, creating a relationship with (or new appreciation of) the land and the natural world.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Delicious Cookies

Mom Henske would never think of celebrating a holiday without serving beautifully decorated, tasty cookies as the final course of the day's meal. For many years, the cookies were from Clayton's Bakery and Deli on Manchester Road in Des Peres. Their website isn't super great but their cookies and cakes are - so much so that I've made the drive out there just to pick up their goodies for special occasions (they must be really good because you know how I hate to drive west of 170 for anything!). Recently, Mom Henske buying cookies from Lubeley's Bakery, which is on Watson Road, just outside the city limits in Shrewsbury (I'd link you to their website but it's just AWFUL! Just as visually bad as Clayton's but, as a bonus, you'll waste 15 thousands millions of minutes waiting for it to fully load.). Initially, I preferred Clayton's cookies, which are less dense and a little sweeter, but I've since grown fond of Lubeley's too. I mean how could something that attractive not be tasty?

These are the designs that Mom Henske bought from Lubeley's for our Memorial Day celebration.