The Times They Are A-Changin’

Let’s be real for a moment: Change is hard. Yes, change can be really good, and really needed, but I think no matter what, change is always hard at first. And I think it gets harder with age, too. But sometimes, it is absolutely necessary.

Today marks one month since I started my job with the City of St. Peters. Today also marks the first time in three weeks I’ve logged into my personal laptop at home (hence why I haven’t blogged in a month). That’s right, when I leave my office at 5 p.m. every day (or close to it) I don’t take a laptop home and I don’t get on a computer again until I log back in at work the next day at 8:30 a.m. And it’s also rare that I receive any emails between that time, or over the weekend. I don’t get any phone calls or texts after office hours either. It’s crazy. And absolutely wonderful.

I also realize how spoiled I am at work with a massive Mac screen that is twice the size of my PC laptop… and how much I’ve missed working with Macs (this PC keyboard is tripping me up right now, so I apologize in advance for any typos). I worked on a Mac (also a huge screen) when I was with SCC, which was nearly five years ago. Turns out, there are a lot of similarities between this job and my job at SCC, and I am loving it.

Everyone keeps asking me what I love most about my new job, and typically, I start with that. The 8:30-5 p.m. hours, with no nights and weekends, and not having volunteers call/text/message me at all hours of the day has been pretty sweet, not gonna lie.

OK I can’t say NO nights and weekends, I did attend my first Board of Aldermen meeting tonight, after all. But it was only to snap a few quick photos, which is what I did at an outdoor concert event a couple weeks ago. Running meetings and events is a whole lot different than just showing up to take a few photos. So I don’t mind the few “nights” I’ve had to work so far, which entail me driving somewhere that is less than 20 minutes from my house and staying no longer than an hour. We do have a large two-day festival that we are in charge of coming up next month, called Celebrate St. Peters, but that’s just one weekend out of the entire year and it’s all hands on deck.

But, like I told two of my former Wash U kids today, I still miss the people, including both my volunteers and coworkers at ACS. And I knew that’s what I would miss the most. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people who work at the City, my new boss and coworkers included. And like I did at SCC, being in the Communications Department, I get to work with a lot of different departments, which is really cool. But there was something about working at a nonprofit, being stressed out about meeting your fundraising goals all the time and planning events for a cause that you all care so deeply about that just brings you closer to those people you work with. It’s a special bond like no other, that’s for sure.

But I don’t miss the stress. I miss the flexibility and being able to run errands during the day, but I don’t miss working late nights at Wash U and driving out to Warrenton. And to my volunteers who might be reading this – I really do miss you guys, just not the work!

While I love the stability of my new schedule, I have been struggling a little bit with managing my personal time. Running errands after work or on the weekends along with everyone else and their mom has been an adjustment, that’s for sure. It was Tyler’s birthday on Tuesday and last weekend I made the huge mistake of trying to go to Kohl’s on Saturday, forgetting it was tax-free weekend. After seeing the chaos inside the store, I promptly turned around and left. I didn’t go back until Monday, when it was peaceful, calm and relatively organized, for Kohl’s, at least.

I’m having trouble feeling motivated to work out after I get off, too. After sitting in an office for most of the day, the last thing I want to do is get home, change, then head straight to the gym. I’d much rather unwind, relax, eat some snacks and watch some TV.

And forget about waking up early to work out before heading into the office. In the nearly five weeks I’ve been with the City, I think I’ve done that twice, maybe three times. I am proud of myself for doing it that many times, to be honest. Now that it’s starting to get a little cooler (not counting today), I’d really like to start running before work. Maybe someday I’ll be able to get up early and work out or run multiple times a week, but I’m taking baby steps here.

Back to the whole snacking after work thing. Perhaps I didn’t realize how much I ate with my crazy schedule at ACS, but I quickly realized I needed to start stocking up on snacks at work if I didn’t want to leave the office starving every day. My favorite snack right now is carrots and hummus. I’m sure my coworkers love hearing me crunch on carrots all day – sorry guys! Don’t worry, I haven’t turned into a health nut or anything (ha!), I also have a bag of Kit Kats on my desk (also crunchy – yikes, I must be annoying). Oh and lunch is a whole other debacle.

OK it’s not really a debacle, but technically I only get a half hour lunch, if I want to take longer I have to make up the time. If I bring my lunch and eat at my desk, technically I can leave a little early. But bringing my lunch would mean I would have to go through the trouble of preparing it in advance… which is tough, especially since our Sunday night softball league started back up a couple weeks ago.

And I have to be honest – my lunch options are rather limited in St. Peters, at least when you compare it to my options around my old office in the Central West End. I end up getting Bread Co a lot, and McAlister’s every once in a while, too. There’s also a cute Italian deli right up the road, Valenti’s. I really wish there was a Potbelly close (I know there’s one on Hwy K, but that would take me a half hour to get there and back). There is a Jimmy John’s right by City Hall, so I probably get that at least once a week. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive up there, get my food and drive back, which is convenient. Plus there’s a lovely little park with a gazebo and a pond right next to City Hall, I imagine I will be eating my lunch out there a lot this fall.

Lunch hasn’t been the only issue – now that I’m home every evening I’ve had to start cooking a lot more if I don’t want to eat take out or fast food every night for dinner. I don’t think I realized how poorly my husband had been eating for the past five years when I wasn’t there.

Although to be fair, it’s not that we eat fast food when neither of us cooks, it’s more that we are probably doing something with our friends or family and going out to dinner. Typically, if I need something quick for dinner, my favorite go-to is Crazy Bowls and Wraps. Although lately I’ve been making my own homemade version of that (inspired by this recipe) and taking the leftovers for lunch – it’s a win-win! We also love getting the rotisserie chickens from Fresh Thyme – they are seriously the best, so tasty and moist!

Last, but not least, I do miss having my own office and being able to work from home, but sharing a space with two of my coworkers is almost necessary in the Communications Department, since everything we do is in tandem with each other. It has been an adjustment thought, going from doing everything on my own, working from home by myself, to going back to working with people every day.

But it’s been so great going back to my roots in writing and marketing, as well as photography. I love getting to use my creativity at work again. I’ve been doing a lot of website editing, too. The Communications Department is basically a grab bag of everything and anything that involves marketing what the City does, which includes documenting those things. You could basically say we are the City’s historians, too. So I’m able to get out of the office several times a week to take photos of all the things going on in the City, whether it’s classes/programs at the Rec-Plex, kids summer camps, parks or events – and I love it!

Overall, a month later, I’d have to say I have no regrets on making the job change and I am really happy. Like I keep saying, I certainly miss my coworkers and volunteers, but I love the work I’m doing for the City, and I can’t wait to share it with you all!

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#TBT: Breezy in Denver

There are lots of cities on my “list.” After 30 years, I was finally able to cross Denver off my list. Up next are (in no particular order): Boston, Austin, New Orleans and Seattle. I also really want to make a trip up to Michigan. Also, North Carolina. Then there’s Europe. I will get to them all some day.

But back to Denver, a trip that has been in the making for several years now. Every time I saw the Cardinals were playing in Denver, I would look up flights and try to make the timing work, but for some reason it never did. I mostly blame weddings. But wedding season is starting to slow down for us these days (cue lots of babies instead), so we now have way more free weekends to do whatever we want.

As I was looking at the Cardinals schedule earlier this year, I noticed they were going to be in Denver over Memorial Day weekend… I thought, ‘Perfect!’ So I sent out a message to all of my college friends to see if anyone else would be interested in tagging along with us. I had already managed to find flights for under $300/person and was already looking at Airbnb’s that would cost less than $50/night per person. I ended up getting four other friends to jump on board: Tony, Jared, Adam and Mickey.

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This was the Sunday before we left for Denver – we got together for dinner to discuss our final plans at the new Rosalita’s in West County (which is MASSIVE btw). We all basically agreed upon one thing: We were going to be “breezy.” And that’s when our trip’s hashtag was born: #breezyindenver. And that’s exactly how we were.

DAY 1

Tony, Jared, Tyler and I flew to Denver on an early flight on Thursday and landed at 7 a.m. Adam and Mickey opted to make the 11-hour drive instead. Even though it would’ve been cheaper, I’m still glad we flew. I really have no interest of ever driving through the entire state of Kansas, which I’ve heard has got to be one of the most boring drives ever.

So, the four of us got an Uber from the airport, and we happened to get picked up by the most interested Uber driver I have ever met – a stand-up comedian born and raised in Denver. Our Airbnb, which was just outside of downtown Denver, was a good 30-minute drive from the airport, so we got a good earful from this guy. He had no shortage of crude and witty comments to make about Denver, the legalization of marijuana and all the different types of people migrating to Denver because of it. To put it in polite terms, he’s rather upset about the influx of Californians and plans to move up north to Fort Collins to get away from them all.

Our Airbnb was in this really cute neighborhood just 10 minutes from downtown
Denver, and walking distance to a few bars and restaurants. It kind of reminded me of South City here in St. Louis. It was a two bedroom little Tudor house that had been remodeled on the inside, had an upstairs and downstairs living space, two full baths, kitchen, dining room and a yard with a deck. It was perfect for the six of us!

After dropping our stuff off at the Airbnb, we decided up first on the agenda, and most important, was food. Tyler and Tony had gotten several recommendations on brunch and dinner spots for us, and one of them was Snooze, which happened to be about a mile from our Airbnb, so within walking distance.

Snooze, self-dubbed as “An A.M. Eatery,” originated in Denver and now has locations in California, Texas and Arizona, as well. I, along with every other millennial, have developed an obsession of brunch. We’ve done plenty of brunches in St. Louis, so when I say Snooze is the best brunch I’ve ever had… that’s a bold statement.

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The first time we went (yes it was so good we went twice out of the three opportunities we had to eat brunch), I got the breakfast pot pie, mostly because it was the first thing I saw on the menu that caught my eye and I was starving. Although it was scrumptious, this would be the first of many mistakes I would continue to make when it came to food in Denver. You’ll see why later.

But to help you see why I made the decision I did, here’s the description of the breakfast pot pie, according to Snooze’s menu: “Snooze’s homemade rosemary sausage gravy smothers a flaky puff pastry, topped with an egg your style (we’d say sunny side up!). You’ve reached breakfast bliss, complete with hash browns.” I’d have to say “breakfast bliss” was the perfect way to describe it.

Our waiter, who was delightful, also brought us out a pancake on the house for the four of us to share. I forget now what all was on it, but it was heavenly, and it made us feel REAL special. Come to find out, that seems to be a regular thing they do, kind of like the complementary chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, only at Snooze, you get amazing pancakes. I think more brunch places need to jump on this complimentary pancake train, just saying.

I also ordered my usual trio of beverages when I’m on vacation: coffee, water and a mimosa, which fulfills the following purposes of caffeination (not a word, I know), hydration and boozation (also not a word, I realize). It’s pretty spectacular and I highly recommend it, especially at brunch.

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After our lovely little brunch, we decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood (which included a stop at a liquor store, of course). Since we got into town so early, we still had plenty of time to kill before our friends Adam and Mickey got in, so we decided to take an Uber to City Park and walk around there for a bit as well. It was a beautiful day for walking, fortunately.

 

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I promise I was happier than I looked. #RBF4life

By the time we got back home, I think we were all pretty pooped from being up so early plus the traveling, so we all decided to take naps until Adam and Mickey showed up. It was perfect timing. Once they arrived, we headed over to a local brewpub in our neighborhood, called Vine Street Pub & Brewery. It seemed like burgers were the go-to here, but for some odd reason I decided to get a grilled cheese. I was expecting a fancy, gourmet “adult” grilled cheese, but what I got was a pretty basic grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. I was also expecting Fritos since the menu said it came with “corn chips,” but apparently that means good old, regular tortilla chips. So I basically got a kids meal at a bar, cool. Everyone else’s food looked pretty good, though. And they had local beer from Mountain Sun Brewery, originally based out of Boulder. We once again had the nicest waiter ever (seemed to be a trend in Denver) who wrote down a ton of restaurant/brewery recommendations for us on the back of a coaster:

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After our mid-afternoon “snack,” we went to a brewery that was on our list of recommendations and it happened to only be 1.5 miles away, thus setting the tone for our trip – lots of eating and drinking.

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When we weren’t taking Ubers, we were piling into Mickey’s Rav 4, rotating whoever had to sit in the back cargo space.

We happened to arrive at Cerebral Brewing right as they were opening up for the day. It ended up being one of my favorite smaller breweries we went to. It had a really cool, nerdy/hipster kind of vibe, which was right up our alley. It kind of reminded me of Side Project, actually. Their homepage says, “A scientific approach to beer. Beer is too vast a medium to be approached thoughtlessly.” Turns out, they happened to be hosting a fundraiser that day for Habitat for Humanity, so not only were we supporting local business, we were being charitable, too. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves for that.

Plus they had really good beer, including Secret Chat Room, which was my favorite of their IPAs that I tried, and Work From Home, an imperial breakfast porter flavored with coffee and maple syrup that was to die for.

After Cerebral we headed home to wash up for dinner.

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We decided on Avanti, “a collective eatery,” based on another recommendation we’d received. It was a pretty cool concept and definitely had a hipster vibe (which was most of Denver).

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Avanti actually houses SEVEN different restaurants inside with several different common areas to hang out, eat and drink, including a cool lounge area and a gorgeous rooftop deck. Each of the mini restaurants are actually inside modified shipping containers, and they include:

As you can tell by their names, the food represents a vast array of cuisine from all over the world. Tyler and I decided to get sushi and pasta (strange combo, I know), but they are two of my favorite things so it worked!

After Avanti we ventured across the street to Prost Brewing, an extremely German brewery – “prost” actually means “cheers” in German. And that pretty much wrapped up our first successful day in Denver!

DAY 2

We started the day off with, of course, brunch – the most important meal of the day. This time we headed over to Denver Biscuit Co. It was a bit of a wait, but they gave us free coffee while we waited outside, so it wasn’t too bad. Plus it gave Adam and Tyler time to go pick up our rental van for the day.

Once inside, I ordered a boozy iced latte, which completed two of my morning objectives while on vacation (caffeinate and boozinate), so I only had to order one additional beverage (water) and not two to complete the last objective (hydrate).

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Then we all split a massive cinnamon roll, which was a great warm up for what was to come… giant biscuits.

Again, this is where I went wrong and ordered The Dahlia, which included a housemade sausage patty, apple butter, fried egg & maple syrup, which sounds delicious right? It looks amazing, too:

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Well, everyone else got The Franklin, or something similar to it, which had buttermilk fried chicken instead of the sausage patty, plus Tender Belly bacon, cheddar cheese and the best part… gravy. You can get either sausage or vegetarian mushroom gravy, and while everyone else ordered the sausage gravy (which is also what I would’ve picked), my husband chose the mushroom.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I love mushrooms, but my friend Tony and I instinctively scoffed at him for choosing the vegetarian option, which would we most likely do in most situations (no offense to vegetarians, we just like our meat, a LOT). Tony and I ended up being in the wrong, though, because the mushroom gravy was definitely more savory and flavorful than the sausage gravy, believe it or not. I guess vegetarian options can be OK sometimes. (Can’t believe I just said that.)

After brunch, we all saddled up in our sweet minivan for the day and headed out to the mountains. Initially, we had planned on our second day in Denver to be our “adventurous” day, where we would do a hike of some sort in the mountains. But unfortunately, two weeks before we arrived in Denver there was a blizzard and the mountains got around two feet of a snow. Typically all of the national parks open up Memorial Day weekend, but this would not be the case for us. Even the scenic byways were closed, so we weren’t even able to drive into the mountains at all, which was a bummer.

Oh, the storm also threw us for a loop with our Airbnb. Our first Airbnb we booked was damaged by a hail storm, so two weeks before our trip I had to frantically search for a new Airbnb which ended up costing us double what we were originally going to pay. It was still relatively cheap, but that kind of sucked.

Note to self: Next time I take a trip to Denver, I need to go in July to avoid issues like this in the future!

And of course, the day we decided to do some exploring outside of Denver it was pretty cloudy and raining off and on. But we decided to make the best of it and made our first stop at Red Rocks, where we were able to sneak in a quick half mile hike before it started raining on us.

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I had been told you can definitely feel the difference in altitude when you’re in the Mile-High City (especially when you’re from St. Louis which is basically at sea level),  but I wasn’t expecting to be quite as palpable as it was. By the time we reached the “peak” of this short hike, I was huffing and puffing pretty hard.

We decided to check out the amphitheatre, too, and by this time it had started raining pretty good so we had to wait it out in the car for a bit. We didn’t stay long after we got out, because it started sleeting/hailing on us.

And that was the extent of our sightseeing/hiking for the trip. By this point we were all ready for a beer, so we began our brewery tour with the first stop at Avery Brewing in Boulder.

It was a much bigger brewing facility than I had expected, with self-guided tours. We enjoyed our beers out on their patio and had excellent service, in which within seconds of placing our drink order with our waitress, our beer would arrive. She would input our orders on a tablet, which would send it to the bar and someone else would bring the beers out, it was amazing. Technology, man.

Stop #2 was in Fort Collins where we went to Odell Brewing and New Belgium, which were right down the street from reach other. The patio at Odell was packed, so we opted for a rousing game of quarters inside instead. It was fun while it lasted, but ended shortly after we broke one of the tasting glasses.

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Then it was time for our last stop of the day, which was my favorite – New Belgium! It was by far the coolest brewery we went to, it was a beer oasis. Like a playground for adults, with beer and live music.

They had some crazy yard games that originated in Belgium, like Rolle Bolle, which is a little like bocce ball, but instead of rolling a ball you roll a heavy rubber wheel/disc thing on a cement structure that reminded me of a half pipe. It was hard, but pretty fun! And the beer was delicious, of course.

Thus ended our brewery tour and we headed home so we could freshen up for our second night out on the town. We had made plans to meet up for dinner with a friend of ours from college who lived in Denver. We grabbed a few drinks before our delicious dinner at Work and Class, where they boast a “good food, no fuss” style and promise a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” I’d have to say both are true.

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Heading out for night #2 in our Uber!

We grabbed a few drinks before our delicious dinner at Work and Class, where they boast a “good food, no fuss” style and promise a “square meal, stiff drink, and fair price.” I’d have to say both are true. After dinner we hopped over to our last brewery stop for the day, Epic Brewing, which was unfortunately getting ready to close by the time we arrived. But I think we were all OK with that because we were pretty tired after our adventurous day.

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DAY 3

Since this was going to be our last full day in Denver, we decided to start it right with another trip to Snooze. Plus, we wanted Adam and Mickey to have the same experience we did, and it did not disappoint. We were once again served a complimentary pancake for all of us to share, which was just as heavenly as last time. This time, however, I decided to go with an eggs benedict AND a pancake, and I had no regrets this time.

I got the Bella! Bella! Benny, complete with “thin slices of prosciutto, Taleggio cheese, and perfectly poached eggs on toasted ciabatta, topped with cream cheese hollandaise, balsamic glaze and arugula.” And when they say “perfectly poached eggs,” they mean it. I’ve never had a better poached egg in my life. For my pancake, I got the blueberry Danish pancake, which is topped with “blueberry coulis, sweet cream and almond streusel surrounding a center of lemony cream cheese filling.” It was to die for.

After brunch we decided to just head back to the BNB to hang out and chill until the game that evening. It was actually perfect. Some of us took naps and then I played my first game of Ticket To Ride (and won!) before we decided to whip out our friend’s beer pong table for some drinking games.

Funny story about this legendary beer pong table, which actually belongs to my friend Mattie, who gave birth to her first son Sam yesterday! This beer pong table has now been on two trips without Mattie, the first one being my senior year spring break trip to Gulf Shores, the second being Denver. I’m not really sure why we thought taking it on either trip was OK, but Mattie, you are a saint for letting us borrow your table without you!

After a few games of flip cup, beer pong and finally ending with Civil War, we decided it was time to head out for the game. We pre-gamed at Falling Rock, a tap house near the stadium (like we needed to). Needless to say, we were all feeling pretty positive by the time we walked into Coors Field.

A friend of mine warned me that Rockies fans were not your typical baseball fans, who rather than actually watch the game, used the stadium as a cool, outdoor bar to hang out and drink in, with a baseball game going on in the background. Once inside, I found out why: It IS a cool place to just hang out and drink, with its multiple levels of outdoor bars that are open to anyone and everyone (unlike Busch where each section is reserved for those specific ticket holders). Plus the views of the mountains from the upper levels are pretty breathtaking.

Our seats were in the bleachers, but Tyler met up with a friend who was sitting in a different section, which I’m glad we checked out because it gave us a much different view of the stadium.

But we discovered some real fans in the bleachers, who kept photo bombing our pictures, which was pretty funny.

With a Cardinals win (their only win of the series actually), it was a great way to end our trip!

 

 

 

“Goodbye Kanna, Hello Tacos”

Life is weird. Seven years ago, I was 23 years old, just one year removed from college, hadn’t even been dating Tyler a full year yet, was just six months into my job at St. Charles Community College and therefore six months into living on my own for the first time in my life. I was just starting to figure out my life as an “adult.”

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Babies.

Little did I know how much my life would change just two months later, on that fateful day in August, and how fast I would have to transition from a newly graduated college kid trying to figure things out to a full-grown adult.

That fateful day in August was the night before Tyler’s 25th birthday, and his friends threw a pool party for him.

I remember getting a frantic call in the middle of the party from my dad, who was on a bicycling trip with his buddies in Colorado. He told me he was coming home because he had been in a biking accident, bumped his head, and after going to the hospital discovered there was a tumor in his brain.

Anyone who knows me knows how the rest of this story goes, so I will spare you the gory details, but 16 months later, my dad bravely succumbed to the disease that slowly took everything away from him.

That was December 2011. The following year would be the toughest year of my life, but ended with two good things: I started working for the American Cancer Society on Oct. 16, 2012, and a month later I was engaged to the second best man I’ve ever known.

Fast forward nearly five years later, and here I am, 30, married, and on the cusp on another big change: After devoting the second half of my twenties to a cause that meant so much to me, I am leaving the American Cancer Society for a job with the Community Relations Department at the City of St. Peters.

Here’s where life gets even weirder: I interned for the Community Relations Department at the City of St. Peters nearly 10 years ago, when I was 21, the summer between my junior year and senior year. Even weirder – I worked in a different department for the City of St. Peters, in Economic Development the summer before that.

What’s funny was that during the interview process for this job, they asked what was one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had, and I told them it was the summer I pulled staples all day, every day, for the Economic Development Department. This is the same job that was heavily encouraged by my father to go for, even though I was not keen on the idea of spending the summer in between my sophomore and junior year of college in an office, 8:30-5, Monday-Friday every week. Boy, did that ever end up paying off.

It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly small decisions, like summer jobs while you’re in college, can affect your life 10 years later. (Or how getting your first job at a Hallmark store walking distance from the house you grew up in could lead to meeting your best friends and eventually your future husband).

But then on another fateful day that I will never forget (not nearly as dramatic or tragic as the other fateful day), someone who worked in the Economic Development department asked me what I was studying in college. At the end of my sophomore year, I had just decided I was going to give communications a try after failing miserably as a double major in business and German. So, he decided to take me upstairs to meet the director of the Community Relations Department for the City of St. Peters, Lisa Bedian, who, as of July 10, will be my boss. I will never forget meeting her that day.

As we continue down the rabbit hole of life being weird, exactly a year ago on June 28, I wrote a blog post called “Left Turns,” and mentioned this story, and I say how Lisa was one of the most influential people I’ve ever met. I had no idea a year later she would become even more influential by offering me a job in her department! I also wrote this:

“Making my “left turn” was the best decision I ever made. Almost four years later, I’m still here, in fact, it’s the longest I’ve stayed in the same job since graduating college, and I still love it, for the most part. Event planning and managing volunteers is definitely my calling, and I’ve been able to find other ways to use my creative writing skills, which I still love. I do miss the social media and other aspects of working in the marketing and PR field from time to time, and I have no idea how or if I will ever get back into that line of business. Or if I even want to.”

Turns out, I did want to, but I wouldn’t realize that until David Fults, who I interned for in the Community Relations Department, reached out to me via Facebook a few months ago. He told me Carole Stangle, who I also interned for, was retiring after 23 years, and he was wondering if I would be interested in applying for the job. And get this: I hadn’t talked to or seen Dave in almost 10 years, and the week after he messages me I run into him at Tyler and I’s favorite local watering hole: Exit 6. Weird, right?

Well, it actually took me a few weeks to warm up to the idea, but like a seed it was planted and continue to grow in my mind until I eventually had my heart set on it. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and I felt like the job description was written for me. I had a feeling then and I know it now: it was all fate – it was all meant to be.

Yesterday my awesome Relay coworkers threw me a baseball and pizza themed good bye lunch, which couldn’t have been more perfect.

I’m a sucker for good puns, and my friend Lauren is the queen of this kind of stuff! Then even more fitting they took me out for my last lunch today at none other than Mission Taco, quite possibly my favorite restaurant in St. Louis! I am so excited that the new one in St. Charles opened up this week (yes we’ve already gone so yes I’ve gone twice this week, don’t judge) just in time for when I start the St. Peters job!

Thus the title of this blog. That’s a screenshot of my friend Sam’s Snapchat on the left, which I thought was perfect.

 

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My friend Sam put this on my door today, I loved it!

Everyone keeps asking what I will miss most about ACS, and with every job I’ve ever left, the answer is always the same: the people. I’ve met some amazing coworkers and volunteers in my nearly five years at ACS, some of whom I hope remain lifelong friends. I’ve had some crazy good and crazy bad experiences that I will never forget and I’ve learned so much. I’ve done a lot of growing, both professionally and personally, and I will be forever grateful to ACS for allowing me to fight back against a disease that took my best friend away from me. I will never, ever regret taking that “left turn” in my life.

But I’ve done my time, I’ve helped raise $1.5 million and I’ve done 19 Relays, not counting the seven St. Charles Relays I did for fun. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and I think my dad would be proud. I’m ready to get back to the world of communications and start writing full time again. While fighting cancer is something that I will always have a passion for, my true passion that I’ve had since I was a kid was writing. It’s what I’m good at, and it’s what I went to school for. I’m ready to take on this next chapter in my life!

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PS – As I was wrapping up this post, this song started playing on Spotify. Man, life is weird.

#TILT: Why I Love the Lou

It’s been a while since my last #TILT (Things I Love Thursday) post, so I thought the theme of today’s #TILT post could be all about #whyilovethelou.

There’s a reason I never left St. Louis. Well, minus those four years of college. And many of you probably don’t even think I’m allowed to say I “live” in St. Louis since technically I’m in St. Charles County. But I digress. Regardless, there are actually hundreds of reasons #whyilovethelou, but I will only share a few with you today (for my time’s sake and yours).

You make friends wherever you go (Reason #49 #whyilovethelou)

Case and point #1: Last week, I met Tyler at Sauce on the Side (Reason #78 #whyilovethelou) in Clayton for lunch. We tried to get there early to beat the lunch rush, but we failed and after ordering we stood there awkwardly (they seriously need a bigger space) waiting for someone to get up.

There were a couple of guys standing next to us who were also waiting for a table, so when a couple got up, we both looked at the other pair and pretty much agreed at the same time to share a table. They looked like nice enough guys, and one of them was wearing a Blues jersey, so I knew we’d at least have that to talk about. (Reason #113 #whyilovethelou)

Turns out, the other guy was from Chicago and unfortunately a Blackhawks AND Cubs fan (AKA THE WORST), but he was tolerable. If there’s anything I love about Chicago fans (and there isn’t much, believe me), it’s they are typically (and I say that generously) knowledgeable about their sports, much like us St. Louisans. So at least we can respect each other on that level, if nothing else.

His friend, on the other hand, was a big Blues fan (who isn’t right now?) and turns out he is a part owner of Byrd & Barrel, a “fast casual fried chicken restaurant” off Cherokee Street, that is currently on our list of places to try.

They ended up being two really awesome guys who loved baseball, hockey and food as much as we did, so we had a lot to talk about. Tyler joked, “We should have lunch with strangers all the time!” Not sure how I feel about that, but that day we lucked out, for sure.

Case and point #2: On Easter, Tyler and I decided to skip the family festivities and go to the Blues playoff game (Reason #84 #whyilovethelou), thanks to a special ticket deal Enterprise was offering for $100 all-inclusive glass seats. Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so, too.

It all started with a text I received from Tyler that Wednesday before, informing me that he had just paid $200 for two tickets to the Blues playoff game. Honestly, I thought that was already a great deal by itself. He asked if I was mad, which I thought was silly. Of course not! Then he proceeded to tell me they were three rows up from the glass. Even better. THEN he told me they were ALL INCLUSIVE. I basically thought we had won the lottery at that point.

So on Easter we went to church, like good kids, then said bye to the family, stopped at a Starbucks to grab coffee and change out of our Easter Sunday clothes into our Blues gear and hit the road for one of the most epic days of the year. And to be honest, with it only being April, we’ve already had some pretty awesome days (AKA St. Patty’s Day and Lupulin – more on those later).

You know what’s awesome about getting all inclusive tickets for the Blues game? You get access to all the food and drinks you want TWO HOURS PRIOR TO START TIME. And that’s not all: You also get to hang out for AN HOUR AFTER THE GAME, TOO. It was magical.

In the Blue Note Lounge, we met these three awesome guys, who all seemed to be around our age, and one of them actually worked at Enterprise, too. Tyler didn’t know him though (PSA: Enterprise is a big company so when I say my husband works there he most likely doesn’t know your friend who also happens to work at Enterprise – it’s a big company, you guys).

We hit it off with them so well that we joked about coming back to the same spot after the game. In my head, I thought, ‘Yeah, right.’ But sure enough, when Tyler and I came back, there they were, hanging out. We ended up closing the place down.

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I’m pretty sure that was my first ever Blues playoff win, and we’re hoping to repeat that when we go to Game 5 tomorrow! No all inclusive this time, but it should still be fun! As much as I love baseball, there’s nothing quite like playoff hockey.

If you don’t have time to make new friends, there are plenty of things to do with the old friends. (Reason #21 #whyilovethelou)

I posted this on Facebook earlier this week:
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And I realize now how full of myself I sound to say I have a “wait list” for new friends. Obviously that’s not the case, but I do know that I am beyond blessed to have so many close friends and things to do, and that I should consider myself lucky for having such a busy social life, even if it does completely drain me sometimes.

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Tyler often says I have issues with saying “no” to people, and that may very well be true. Case and point: In the short time span of two weeks, I will celebrate a total of six birthdays, a bridal shower, a baby shower, plus Mother’s Day. Between my social life and with how crazy work has been, I haven’t had time for much else.

So the things I like to do for myself, like this blog, What’s Up St. Chuck, reading and, I hate to say it, working out, ends up being cut out. However, I did just have my last meeting with my Wash U Relay students for the semester this week, so I should get some of my life back.

Although now we are gearing up for the St. Charles Relay coming up at the end of this month, oh and I’M GOING TO DENVER FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.

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I’ve never been and I’ve been wanting to go for years, so when I found out the Cardinals were going to be playing the Rockies that weekend, I reached out to some of my friends and decided to finally bite the bullet.

It’s always been a dream of mine to eventually see the Cardinals play in every stadium in the country (isn’t that every true Cardinals fan’s dream?) So I’m excited to venture out of the Midwest to finally start making it happen! Next is potentially Boston in August… how awesome would that be? The Cardinals will be in town right in between Tyler’s birthday and our wedding anniversary, so it’d be perfect!

But I CANNOT WAIT for Denver! I booked an Airbnb for the first time ever, which I’m excited about. It was super cheap and we’ll be 10 minutes from the stadium and downtown Denver. We’ll only be there for four days, but we want to explore as much as possible, so if you have any advice/tips, send them along!

Dogtown St. Patty’s Day Parade (Reason #102 #whyilovethelou)

Speaking of Tyler and I’s trouble with saying “no” to our friends, this one was all his idea. Typically my college friends and I take off around St. Patrick’s Day anyway because it also happens to fall around March Madness, which is a sacred holiday in our group, at least the first two days of the tournament. We all typically take off work that Thursday and Friday to hang out and watch basketball.

St. Patrick’s Day was really no different, although it also always falls the day after our friend Mickey’s birthday, who had just moved back to St. Louis with her husband Adam after a two-year hiatus in Knoxville (today also happens to be their wedding anniversary!) I really can’t put into words how great it has been to have them back (Reason #37 #whyilovethelou), but to put it shortly, it’s made me (and my other friends) very happy.

But many of my friends had never done the Dogtown St. Patty’s Day Parade before, which, much like Mardi Gras, is a rite of passage for any good St. Louisan. In fact, I’ve talked to a lot of people about it (including our new friends we met at Sauce on the Side last week) and I’ve decided the Dogtown parade is like the old people’s (30 and up) version of Mardi Gras.

I had actually attempted to go to Dogtown several years ago by myself to meet up with a few friends for the parade, but I was ill prepared. I got down there way too late, it took me forever to find parking and I didn’t have a home base. #rookiemistakes

This time, we did it right. We all met up at our friend Tony’s house in Maplewood for breakfast around 9 a.m. which was followed by an Irish-themed power hour to get the party started right (think Boondock Saints and The Departed soundtracks). It was amazing.

We then Ubered over to Dogtown, which was still kind of a nightmare. Our goal was to meet up near Heavy Riff, and our first Uber driver was not successful, so we called another one who was able to get us to our destination. We proceeded to partake in your typical St. Patty’s Day shenanigans, watched a little bit of the parade, and mostly just hung out with lots of friends, some who came with us, some we met down there and others we ran into (Reason #53 #whyilovethelou).

Ubering back to our friend’s house was yet another nightmare, however. We ended up walking a good portion of it before our sober/pregnant friend, who was a saint that day, came and rescued us. Besides those minor hiccups, it was a glorious day and will go down in history as one of my favorite St. Patrick’s Days ever. #nevertoooldtocelebratestpattysday

4 Hands Lupulin Carnival (Reason #65 #whyilovethelou)

Following St. Patrick’s Day was another holiday, at least in our hearts: 4 Hands’ Lupulin Carnival AKA the best beer carnival on earth. This year they moved it to Union Station, which was great, because most of the beers were inside, and even though they have been pushing the event back farther and farther into spring, it is still typically pretty chilly on Lupulin Day. The space was much bigger and the lines were relatively short, which meant optimal beer tastings.

This was probably our fourth or fifth Lupulin Carnival, and who knows how many other beer festivals we’ve been to, so we’re seasoned veterans at these types of events now. Basically what that means is we have plans in place for rides and food.

Case and point: We again met at our friend Tony’s place in Maplewood, since it’s the most central place ever and super convenient, and ubered over to Union Station from there. Also, I made pretzel necklaces. They weren’t pretty, but they were efficient, and that’s what matters, people.

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And our beer expert friend Zach made an awesome spreadsheet of all the beers that were going to be at Lupulin, which included an alphabetical listing of all the breweries, their beers, along with each beer’s style (IPA, stout, etc.), ABV (alcohol by volume percentage) and it’s average Untappd rating. It was amazing.

He also had pretty much memorized the map of where the breweries were going to be and he had a plan of which ones he wanted to hit up first. We’ve learned over the years to pretty much listen to Zach when it comes to beer, so when he said he wanted to get in line for Lupulin two hours early that’s what we did. And guess what, we were the first people in line.

In case you’re wondering what the benefits are of getting to a beer festival early, when you get four hours of unlimited tastings, it’s because those tastings actually aren’t unlimited. The best beers almost always run out early, so you have to get to those first.

In fact, since we were the first people through the gates, we actually got access to the inside where the breweries were before anyone else, because they forgot to put up the gates to block people from going inside. We got pretty lucky.

It didn’t take long for me and a couple of my friends to start falling behind Zach and his robust beer tasting schedule, which was faster than what most of us could keep up with. Especially since we were drinking a lot of heavy single and double IPAs with ABVs of 9 percent and higher.

Some of the added bonuses of Lupulin are the carnival acts and shows (think sword swallowing and fire) food trucks (Gioia’s and Seoul Taco FTW), the live music, the rides (ferris wheel and a slide which I unfortunately didn’t get to do either this year) and as always, the free Fish Eye Fun photo booth:

Free Cardinals Games (Reason #18 #whyilovethelou) 

How can I do a post about #whyilovethelou without mentioning Cardinals baseball? For the third year in a row we were not able decided not to get tickets to the Opening Day game. In fact, for the first time in eight years, Tyler and I didn’t even go downtown for the festivities. I actually have a lot of beef with how this year’s Opening Day was set up:

  1. I, for one, did not like that it was on a Sunday. The home opener is always on a Monday and I enjoy playing hooky from work.
  2. The reason it was on a Sunday is that we somehow got slotted to play the World Series Cham… no, I can’t. They earned it, but I just can’t type out their entire title.
  3. Between playing the Cubs AND the fact that there was a Blues game that day, too, downtown was going to be crazy crazier than usual.

On top of all that, it was the day after Lupulin, so we just weren’t up for any more shenanigans that weekend. #gettingold

Also, I think in the back of our minds we knew we were going to the game on Tuesday night. Even better, they were suite seats, which meant all inclusive, and best of all, they were FREE.

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 And so continues Tyler and I’s lucky streak of free Cardinals games. Last year we went to 10 games and only paid for four of them. These year I’ve gone to two games and paid for zero so far!

In fact I was just offered four tickets for tonight’s game, but I already have dinner plans, and going to a game in the current weather doesn’t not sound like a lot of fun right now. Plus we’ve already bought tickets for six games this year, five of them through Tyler’s friend from work who has season tickets.

FOOD (Reason #9 #whyilovethelou)

Y’all knew this was coming, right? As per usual, there’s been no shortage of restaurant hopping for Tyler and I lately.

I think it’s fair to say Tyler and I have a slight major obsession with tacos. So it’s no surprise that my #whyilovethelou post features our favorite place for tacos in the Lou: Mission Taco (Reason #30 #whyilovethelou).

And we can’t wait for the Mission Taco to open up at the Streets of St. Charles (they were supposed to open tomorrow, but that doesn’t look like the case anymore), but I think our favorite location will always be the original one on the Loop. There’s also a decent taco place out in Wentzville called Yo! Salsa that I did a What’s Up St. Chuck story on.

Then last weekend we revisited an old St. Charles County staple, Duchesne Bar and Grill (Reason #94 #whyilovethelou), after going to our friend’s surprise 30th birthday party at the Adrenaline Zone in St. Charles (and today happens to be her actual birthday – happy birthday, Jess!)

I played demolition ball for the first time ever and it was a blast. They also apparently have an epic multi-story laser tag course that I want to try sometime, as well as a full-blown bar. It’s like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults.

We stayed to watch the Blues win then headed over to the good ole Duchesne Bar and Grill, which many say is like the Fast Eddie’s of St. Charles. They say this because there is a separate food window at the bar, serving this fabulously cheap menu:

When I posted on Facebook that I was there, a friend of mine commented with, “If you can get past the grease, the food is actually pretty good.” To which I replied, “Are you kidding? The grease is what makes it so good!” And it’s true, everything comes out smokin’ hot, fresh and full of grease… it’s St. Charles eatin’ at its finest.

Better yet, they now have (maybe they’ve had it for a while, I hadn’t been in years) karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. For my college friends and I, karaoke was our thing. We spent every Wednesday night (karaoke night) at this hole-in-the-wall bar in Kirksville appropriately called “My Bar.” Don’t bother looking it up, it no longer exists, sadly.

We sang our hearts out to Don’t Stop Believing, Piano Man and Sweet Caroline literally every single week. We’d throw in some others every once in a while, like Dream On, Total Eclipse of the Heart or Goodbye Earl, but we pretty much had the same cliche line up every week. I’d say we probably annoyed the hell out of the owner, who’s name was Butch, but I doubt he really ever even knew what was going on in the first place. I mean the guy offered us $2 pitchers of beer for goodness sake… he also had numerous “going out of business” parties and sales before he finally shut down for good. I still have a cowboy boot glass from there that I will cherish forever.

But back to karaoke night at Duchesne. It totally reminded us of our My Bar days, and so we decided to pretend we were in college again (we do that more frequently than I’d like to admit) and brought back an old favorite – Don’t Stop Believing, of course, and sang the night away.

Wow, I really did not mean for this post to be as long as it did! It honestly all started with our experience at Sauce on the Side last week and it just grew from there. Turns out there are more reasons than I even realized of #whyilovethelou and that list just continues to grow.

As my boy Nelly would say, “I’m from the Lou and I’m proud.”

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I am feminist, hear me roar

I tried to write this post several times, and each time I couldn’t quite put together all the thoughts I had in my head.

The first time I attempted this post, I wrote this:

Jan. 9, 2017:

2016 has been over for nine days. And in 11 days, we will say goodbye to the classiest president I’ve seen in my lifetime, and welcome in the… well, there’s really not one single word I can use to define our incoming president. “Unclassy” comes to mind, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it, so I will just leave it at that and let you all use your imaginations on what other words I would like to use.

I’ve seen a lot of people say they are glad 2016 is over. That it was a horrible year and nothing good came out of it, so good riddance. This is what comes up when you type in “why 2016…”Why 2016 Sucks.JPG

Someone even made a song about why 2016 sucked so hard. And this is why people think millennials are such big babies. I’ll agree, there are things about 2016 that I didn’t like, but for me, personally, it wasn’t all bad.

So I’m going to focus on the good, because that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do, because what’s the point of dwelling on the past, right? We all need to channel some Rafiki right now, is basically what I’m saying:

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The second time I attempted to write this post was on inauguration day, and this is all I had to say about that:

Jan. 20, 2017:

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Pretty much sums up how I feel about inauguration day.

It also expresses how I feel about all the backlash/negative/idiotic comments I’ve seen about the Women’s March on Saturday, which I was unable to attend but was so proud of all my friends who did and all the women they represented!

Then I posted this on Twitter a few days later:

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I apologize for the language in my tweet, but that is truly how I feel. So I followed up with this rather long Facebook post that same day:

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And I have been saving, bookmarking and taking screenshots of things I’ve been seeing lately that I planned to use as ammo for this post. Like this article:

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And this one: Addressing the Absurdity of Trump Supporters Claiming Liberals are “Just Sore Losers”

While I don’t agree with this statement: “The truth is, Trump and his supporters are fragile little snowflakes who have complete meltdowns whenever someone tells the truth about what a pathological liar he is.” I really hate the term “snowflakes” altogether, and don’t encourage name calling on either side.

But I do agree with the idea that it’s not about losing that has all of us so beat up, it’s the fact that our country elected a man who does not respect women, plain and simple. The list goes on and on from there, but we’ll just focus on that principle for the time being.

I also appreciate articles that take a lighter appeal to feminists: “The Women of Twitter on Girl Power.” (See more on my thoughts/feelings about #7 below)

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I posted this on Instagram and Facebook:

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And a friend of mine tagged me in this post:

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But what makes me sad and disheartened is for every one of those posts I see a post from a woman saying how she doesn’t support “feminists,” or how “they” are making a bad name for women.

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How are we making a bad name for women? Because we stand up for ourselves? Because we are advocating for equal rights and opportunities? Don’t you think it’s crazy that it’s 2017, nearly 100 years after we were granted the right to vote, that we still face so many inequalities as women? That there is still a gender pay gap? Which, if you didn’t (or refuse to) know, IS REAL, PEOPLE.

On average women are still only making 79 CENTS for every dollar a man makes. Even more scary, in this Business Insider article it states, “While progress has been made towards pay parity between the sexes, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will not be reached until 2059.” 2059?! Why is this OK? And if you tell me that it’s because women aren’t aggressive enough in the workplace I will slap you.

IF that were true, you want to know why women aren’t more aggressive in the workplace? Because if we are then it is seen as being “bitchy.” This article by Scary Mommy explains it best: “To the Women Who Have Been Told They Are Too Much.” I love this part:

“I’m not too bold or too loud or too aggressive. I’m passionate as hell. I’m passionate about so many things from mothering my amazing kids to social justice issues to reading awesome books to finding the best cup of coffee the West Coast has to offer (Stumptown). I’m passionate about intersectionality, feminism, equal rights, and paid parental leave. (The patriarchy really dislikes a passionate woman because passionate women get shit done.)” – Samantha

There is nothing that gets me going more then when my husband, or anyone else for that matter, tells me I need to “calm down,” or “take it easy.” In fact, quite often those words will have the opposite effect on me. Even worse, try talking to me in a patronizing tone when I’m all fired up like that. Just ask anyone – my husband, my friends, they’ll tell you: it’s not good.

Yet there is nothing I love more than being described as “passionate,” which is something my friend Zach said when I found out a couple weeks ago that my 12-year-old sister had me in her phone as the “Wicked Witch.” Don’t believe me? I have photo evidence:

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She told me it’s because I’m “scary,” and when I’m mean, I’m “really mean.” I know I can be intimidating. I know I have RBF, like, really bad. But guess what? Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have to go around smiling all the time.

My other biggest pet peeve, which I was talking about with my coworkers last week, is when a guy I don’t know tells me to smile. Like, “Hey you’d be a lot prettier if you’d smile more.” Is that supposed to be a pick up line?! I wonder how many times that’s worked. In fact, I know: ZERO. News flash: Maybe I don’t care if I look pretty to you! Maybe I want to be thought of as more than pretty. Maybe I am perfectly fine with people being intimidated by me, because that means I get less comments like that from strange men that I don’t want to talk to.

I didn’t use to define myself as a “feminist.” Because, like many other ignorant people, I thought they were hippies who didn’t shave and walked around calling men “chauvinist pigs” all the time and that was it. In fact, I thought calling myself a feminist would be degrading to those who claimed to be feminist, because I didn’t do those things.

I have, however, always defined myself as an independent and strong woman (thanks, Dad). Perhaps without even realizing it, or maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, but I feel as though my dad always pushed me to test the boundaries that came with gender roles. In fact, he wholeheartedly encouraged me to break the mold most of the time. He never doubted that I could do anything I put my mind to, and that I would someday be an executive at some company, and what he wanted for me more than anything was success. In retrospect, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that and respect him for how he raised my sister and I.

And so I’ve learned that being feminist is so much more than being a hippy who never shaves and hates men. In my mind, any woman who believes she deserves the same rights as any man is considered a feminist. Hopefully most of us are some form of feminist, in our own rights, on our own terms.

Regardless, as I said in my Instagram/Facebook post yesterday and in my post after the Women’s March, I do know one thing: I am tired of seeing women put other women down for standing up for OUR rights as women. Regardless of who our president is, I will always advocate for women’s rights, and the rights of ALL people, until we are all truly made equal.

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Self Love

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, so instead of focusing on all the other relationships in your life, why not focus on the longest relationship you’ve ever had with anyone: The one with yourself. I think we all deserve a little self love every once in a while. Or in the sacred words of Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec: Treat yo self!

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Here are some of my favorite ways to treat myself:

Love your body

I am very proud to say Tyler and I still have been consistently keeping up with our workout routine of working out three times a week! We quit our personal trainer a month ago but we’re still going strong, and I’ve even been adding running and yoga into my schedule here and there.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel working out at a gym again, but I really love Anytime Fitness. I took this last Saturday when I had the entire gym to myself in the afternoon:

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I’m no longer scared to work out on my own with the free weights or squat rack, and I’ve only had one douche bag try and tell me what to do, so not too bad so far! Also, note to self: Don’t work out after school lets out during the week, because you run a high chance of having to share the machines with pesky high school punks. Gosh, I’m really getting old.

Side note: I finally caved and bought my first pair of Lularoe leggings (see in photo above), and I will admit, they are probably the softest pair of clothing I’ve ever owned. Don’t worry, I’m not going to become a consultant or host a party or anything, but I’m just saying, they are super comfy. That is all.

Food is the way to my heart

What’s the point of working out if it doesn’t allow you to eat what you want, right? I mean, that’s why I work out anyway. And what better way to treat yourself than with food?

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My friend Deanna and I cannot stop talking about how ready we are for Fritz’s to be open. Why can’t they be open all year round?! In fact she just texted me last night that they have a countdown on their website, they open in eight days, on March 4! You better believe we plan on going to their opening day!

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Working for What’s Up St. Chuck certainly has its advantages, like this day when I got TWO free cannolis in one day. The one on the left is from Nancy’s, a Chicago style pizza place, who’s story I am currently working on. And the one on the right was from J. Noto Bakery, which is currently up on the website now, and is my favorite story of the year so far, and my new favorite snack/lunch time spot (see below to find out why).

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One of the owners of J. Noto’s let me try a sneak peak of their new “dessert” panini, which features melted nutella and strawberries… YUM!

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J. Noto’s Capri Panini: Capocolla, artichoke spread, tomato, fresh mozzarella and sweet tomato jam. Get. In. My Mouth.

I’ve also had my share of free pizzas lately, thanks to WUSTC, including Nancy’s Pizza, a new Chicago style pizza chain that just opened up right down the street from me (check out their story on the website) and a real wood oven cooked pizza from BC’s Kitchen, another story coming soon on the WUSTC website.

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Nancy’s thin crust pizza – delicious!

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Traditional stuffed deep dish Chicago style pizza – YUM!

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BC’s Kitchen’s pizza of the day: chicken, tomato, spinach, onions, fresh chunks of mozzarella, topped with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Then there are my old-time favorites, like Lewis and Clark’s teriyaki chicken sandwich, which yes, comes with a grilled pineapple on top, and has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.
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If you guessed that it was yet another favorite dish that my dad and I shared, you’ve probably heard me talk about it before. Expect a What’s Up St. Chuck story to come soon on that, too. I have a lot in the works right now, my friends!

Then, every once in a while, I try to healthy, like last night, when my husband requested a chicken salad for dinner:

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Chicken salad with cucumbers, avocado, tomatoes, craisins and almonds

Coffee is fuel for the soul

If food is the way to my heart, then coffee is the what fuels my soul. I recently downloaded the Starbucks app, which has been a blessing and a curse, and I am now a Gold Member which means with every purchase I earn stars towards a free reward. As I said, it’s both good (free Starbucks) and bad (I now go to Starbucks more).

But I also love supporting the local coffee shops, like 11 Bravo Coffee, which I LOVE and they have recently starting setting up shop in O’Fallon right down the street from me (HALLELUJAH!) instead of Wentzville, which has been awesome. I took Tyler with me for the first time last weekend, and Victor, the owner, let us try a new cookie latte flavor, and it was delicious. I love his coffee because it’s strong and just sweet enough, but not too sweet. Plus when you buy his coffee, you’re supporting our local veterans, which is pretty cool.

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I also love Picasso’s, which has two locations that I’ve been frequenting lately, including Streets of St. Charles and Main Street. There’s nothing better than getting their root beer frappe on a warm, sunny day and sitting outside on their (somewhat slanted) patio. I tried to do that earlier this week, but even though it was 76 degrees out, it was a little too windy for my liking, so instead I posted up inside all afternoon. I’m also a big fan of their Van Gogh Milky Way (chocolate and caramel flavored latte), either hot (center photo below) or cold (far right photo below).

Let music free your mind

Spotify is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Whether I’m working out, writing or trying to get some work done, I can always find something to listen to for whatever mood I’m in thanks to Spotify. Here are some of my favorite playlists, radio stations and artists right now:

Infinite Acoustic Spotify Playlist. I discovered this one the other day and I fell in love. With artists like Birdy, Gardiner Sisters, Hozier, Iron & Wine, James Bay and Jose Gonzalez – I love it all. And I was pleasantly surprised by an acoustic cover of Jon Bellion’s “All Time Low,” which I think I like better than the regular version.

Chance the Rapper. After his Grammy’s performance and wins, how can you not love this guy? If you haven’t given his album, Coloring Book, a listen, you should. In fact we just bought tickets for his concert at Scottrade in May and I can’t wait!

Gary Clark, Jr. This guy doesn’t need an introduction or explanation. If you haven’t listened to his live album yet, you are missing out. This dude is absolutely amazing in concert. Seeing him at the Pageant is an experience I’ll never forget.

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Took this at his concert at the Pageant last year – the man is a genius on the guitar.

After listening to the Gary Clark, Jr. artist radio on Spotify, I’ve also discovered Leon Bridges and Shakey Graves, both of which I like a lot. Leon has an old school sound that makes him sound like he’s from another era, in fact, I thought he was until I looked him up. Fun fact: They’re all from Texas.

Zach Williams. As you can see my musical taste runs the gamut. Zach is an up and coming Christian artist, who I had the pleasure of seeing up close and personal at the JOY FM Sofa Concert Series a couple weeks ago. He has a raw country/rock/folk sound that is missing in Christian music, and hearing him live was awesome.

I’ve been volunteering to help out at those concerts and it’s been a blast! I’ve seen Zach, Johnny Diaz and Josh Wilson, and Zach has been my favorite so far. Although we saw For King and Country back in December for their Christmas concert, and boy do they put on a show. Lauren Daigle, another one of my favorites, opened for them, and I love her voice but she wasn’t quite as entertaining live. We’re also going to the Phil Wickham concert in March – I’ll let you know how that is!

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With Tyler and his parents at the For King and Country concert

Escape with a good movie

So you’ve loved your body, eaten some good food, drank some coffee and jammed out to some good music, now it’s time to relax and escape reality with some awesome movies. With the Oscars coming up next weekend, I thought I would share my list of Best Picture nominees from best to worst:

  1. Lion. I was basically in tears throughout the entire movie. I wanted to adopt the little boy who played Saroo, he was so freaking adorable. In fact it made me want to adopt all of the little Indian children. And Dev Patel. Oh, Dev Patel. Mmm-mmm. Wow, has he grown since Slumdog Millionaire. Love the beard and those long, beautiful tresses.
  2. Manchester By the Sea. This was a tough one to put at #2, because I think it is equally deserving of Best Picture, and I certainly think Casey Affleck should win the nomination for Best Leading Actor. And I loved the kid who played his nephew, Lucas Hedges, who’s up for Best Supporting Actor, which is, unfortunately for him, stacked with talent this year. Probably one of the saddest, most depressing yet most emotionally charged and powerful movies I’ve seen in a long time.
  3. Moonlight. Truly moving story and the three different actors did an amazing job of portraying the same boy who we get to watch grow into a man. Wish we could’ve seen more of Mahershala Ali.
  4. Hell or High Water. Unexpectedly good. Love the underlying theme throughout of how the effects of 2008 are everlasting. Chris Pine was impressive, Ben Foster was awesome as always, and Jeff Bridges is my pick for Best Supporting Actor.
  5. Hacksaw Ridge. Amazing heroic story that is hard to believe is true, and portrayed well by Andrew Garfield. Unfortunately just gets lost when stacked up against the other nominees, IMO.
  6. La La Land. Great stand alone musical. Should definitely win some awards for Original Score or Original Song (love “City of Stars”), but Best Picture? Nah. I understand Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood, but let’s let this one slide this time, shall we?
  7. Arrival. Underrated, and again, unfortunately, among the rest of the nominees gets lost. But I think Amy Adams was definitely snubbed for Best Leading Actress, especially when you look at the list of nominees (weak). And really cool, unique plot.
  8. Hidden Figures. Again, a great movie with an incredible story, and I loved Taraji Henson, who played the main character, Katherine Johnson. And don’t get me wrong, I love Octavia Spencer, too, but I think Taraji was more deserving of the Best Supporting Actress nominee.
  9. Fences. This was written as a play and should have stayed that way, or adapted differently. By far my least favorite of the lot, even with Denzel, who is one of my favorites. If you like Denzel monologues, and I mean a lot of monologues, then you will love it.

Find your peace with a good book

This is something I need to work on more myself: finding time to read. At the very least, I’ve been trying to keep up with my new devotional my mother-in-law got me for Christmas and read it every morning along with a few passages from the Bible.

Being in a book club has also helped with reading more, although I do miss picking out my own books to read. And since I don’t make enough time for myself to read, I can never get ahead, finish our book club pick and read another before our next book club pick is announced. It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. We are currently reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and it is certainly an interesting read so far, and I’m a little more than halfway through.

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Get outside

With how beautiful the weather has been lately, how can you not? If anything it has certainly motivated me to run more. I took Bailey to Legacy Park in Cottleville on Sunday for a good 20 minute run, then yesterday we did a full two miles in the neighborhood. It’s been wonderful.

Tyler and I also had an awesome little Saturday afternoon a couple weekends ago where we went to Crooked Tree Coffee House for breakfast, which Tyler jokingly calls Crow’s Nest because he could never remember name, so now that’s what we call it. It was a perfect morning to enjoy our breakfast on their backdoor patio with some delicious iced coffees.

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Then we took a stroll in Frontier Park down by the riverfront and walked along Main Street, where we stopped in one of my new favorite shops, Joys Collective Market. It can be a little overwhelming, because they pack a LOT of adorable stuff into relatively tiny spaces, but it’s so much fun to just look around.

We ended up buying a handmade knitted headband from Three Sheep Shack  whom I follow on Instagram (they sell a ton of adorable stuff, including these coffee warmers), and he bought a sweet “St. Louis, MO” sweatshirt.

I also discovered a couple of new shops as well, including Galaxign, a super cute little robot shop (you’ll have to check them out to see what I mean) and Helen Nichole Designs. And yes, if you guessed I’m going to do WUSTC stories on both of them then you are correct! Helen Nichole Designs just celebrated their one year anniversary of the shop, which until last year, was Memories in the Attic for the past 30+ years. We bought a really cute wooden photo holder with big metal clips and a headband for my niece (I’m obsessed with baby headbands).

After our little shopping spree, which, by the way, what is it about buying local that makes you feel so good? And less guilty about buying stuff? I love knowing that what I’m purchasing is going right back into the community I live in and supporting a local business owner.

Anyway, after we were done shopping, we stopped at Llywelyn’s to sit on their patio and enjoy a beer with a couple of our friends. Then we went home and sat on our own deck and had another beer. It was truly the perfect Saturday afternoon and the best kind (and my husband’s favorite kind): completely spontaneous and unplanned.

Which brings me to my last and favorite way to treat myself:

Spend time with those you love

If you don’t have people in your life that you love to spend time with, that build you up, that make you feel relaxed, that make you feel at home, then what’s the point of it all, right? As much as I love some “me time,” I also crave time with my hubby, my friends and my family.

Speaking of family, today is actually my mom’s 55th birthday, and last Friday I took her out for a surprise birthday celebration: a wine/paint night in Warrenton! It was a little dual purposed for me: I was supporting one of my volunteer’s Relay For Life fundraisers, and I knew my mom had a good time the last time I took her to a paint night event (also for a Relay For Life fundraiser).

Earlier that day Tyler and I got to spend the morning at Busch Stadium to kick off our ACS Day at the Ballpark promotions, which is Sun. Aug. 27 this year. We got a tour of the Cardinals clubhouse, which I had never done before, and the Cardinals dugout. It was pretty cool walking out of the clubhouse and into the dugout, just like a player would before a game. Then we had a lovely brunch at Ballpark Village.

Side note: I attempted to purchase tickets for the Cardinals Opening Day game against the stupid Cubs, which I call stupid for many reasons, but specifically for this occasion because I blame them for ticket prices being so high. The cheapest ones I could find were $150 a pop! That’s just ridiculous. I’m not paying $300 for Tyler and I to go to a freakin’ baseball game in the nosebleeds. I’d much rather bar hop like we did last year in Soulard and around Ballpark Village.

And seriously – why do we have to play the Cubs on Opening Day? That is a sacred holiday around here, we don’t need a bunch of Cubs fans hangin’ around, tootin’ their horns about the World Series. I feel like the MLB is playing a very cruel joke on Cardinal Nation and I am NOT a fan.

End rant.

Perhaps complaining about the Cubs and the fact that I will again not be in attendance for Opening Day is not a good way to end this blog post about self love, huh?

So instead, let’s end with this: Self love can take many shapes and forms based on your needs, hobbies, likes, passions, etc. All I’m saying is it’s important to check in with yourself every once in a while, mentally, physically and emotionally. Take time for yourself, even if that means taking a break from work, school, kids, or whatever it is that is constantly asking for your time and attention. And yes, I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to all of you. So go out there and love yourselves, people!

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Real Life: 30 and Married

I attended a trivia night last night for St. Louis College Prep, where for once there were much more younger tables (lots of recent alumni, I believe). Between that and rummaging through old boxes last night to find a Truman shirt to wear, since the trivia night encouraged to show your “college spirit,” and finding only one shirt that still fits me, I’ve finally started to realize how much my life has changed since college.

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So, four months in to being 30 and almost four years into being married, I thought it’d be fun to compile a list of signs on how you know you are married and 30 (I’ve highlighted them in bold below). Because this is my life now.

Saying things like “YOLO” or “boujee” (thanks, Migos) followed by, “Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days?” And then realizing you’re not sure if that’s what the kids are saying these days, and you really don’t care. (Sign #1)

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Speaking of things that the kids are doing these days, we both frequently use Snapchat, and I’ve realized I no longer have FOMO as bad as I used to (Sign #2). In fact, seeing someone’s Snapchat of them out at a bar, or at some dance club, gives me the exact opposite feeling of FOMO these days, and instead a feeling of satisfaction that I no longer feel the need to do those things. I do go out to bars, people, but you won’t typically find me at one past midnight.

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Which brings me to Sign #3, which my friend TJ so eloquently put: “The thought of a social event that would require you to be out past midnight gives you heartburn.” And it’s true. My nights of “going out” consist of usually going to dinner between 6-8 p.m., maybe going to a bar afterwards for a few drinks, and ending up in bed by midnight.

I remember when we used to “pre-party” and wouldn’t even leave the house until after 10 p.m. Blegh. That sounds awful now. If I’m not out of the house by 8 p.m. I am in for the night, for sure. 

And don’t even get me started on hangovers (Sign #4). I’d much rather have “less fun” and only drink a couple beers, rather than have “a lot of fun” by drinking 5+ beers and nursing a hangover for two days. Because that’s how long a hangover lasts nowadays, my friends: two whole freakin’ days. It’s as awful as it sounds. Plus I would rather use my Sunday productively than lay around being a lazy bum all day. It honestly makes Mondays that much more worse.

There are other signs that are less obvious, sometimes. Like saying “we” when you are talking about yourself, making people question whether there is someone with you they can’t see (Sign #5). I caught myself doing it last week and someone outright asked me, “Who is we?” I’m not crazy, I promise!

Then there’s moments when you know what is happening, and rather than be OK with it, you are actually a little ashamed. Like a few weeks ago when Tyler and I started calling the cops on the high school kids that are always loitering in the cul-de-sac behind our house (Sign #6). I think that’s when being 30 really hit home for me. We were those people.

Then there are entire weekends that show your age. Like this past weekend, for instance. On Friday night, after attending Francis Howell Central High School’s Paint it Pink Night for Coaches vs. Cancer (another event which made me feel old), I called Tyler asking what he wanted to do for dinner (Sign #7), thinking maybe we could go out and grab a bite somewhere. But seeing as how neither of us could decide what we wanted (Sign #8), I ended up up at the grocery store instead, which is lovely at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, if I do say so myself. (Sign #9)

However, I will say that going grocery shopping on a hungry stomach is NEVER a good idea. I guess I decided I never wanted to be without snacks again, because I’m pretty sure I bought ALL of the snacks, including but not limited to three different kinds of chips (cheesy poofs FTW), two frozen pizzas, bagel bites, pizza rolls (pizza apparently sounded really good), frozen pretzels and ice cream. If I told you it wasn’t magical though, I’d be lying.

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Guys, I couldn’t even contain myself from opening the bag of cheesy poofs before I got home, which is less than a 3-minute drive from my house. This might be the exact opposite of #adulting, however. But don’t like to yourselves, we all do it! (Sign #10)

Then, I came home, promptly started up the oven for the frozen pizza, continued eating my cheesy poofs, popped open a beer, and when all was said and done we settled in for a lovely evening at home watching Lion, which is my pick for Best Picture, just saying (Sign #11). I once read that marriage is constantly asking each other, “Do we have to?” when it comes to social events, and I can attest to this being true. (Sign #12)

Which leads me to Sign #13: When it comes to lounging watching movies/TV all night (or sometimes extending into the weekend), I think one of the nicest gestures of marriage can be letting the other choose what we’re going to watch for the evening.

You know what is an even nicer gesture? Doing any task for your spouse (AKA unloading the dishwasher, picking up their favorite ice cream, being the sober driver, feeding the dogs/children, making dinner or picking a restaurant to go to) without prompting from said spouse. (Sign #14)

In addition to that, coming to the realization finally, that there are certain things about your spouse (and yourself) that you will never be able to change, so accepting their shortcomings (and yours), and making the best of it is all you can do. (Sign #15)

So, in short, here is my list of 15 Signs You Are Married and 30:

  1. Not knowing or caring what’s “hip” or “in” anymore.
  2. No more FOMO.
  3. Going out means dinner, drinks and being in bed by midnight.
  4. Hangovers are no longer worth it.
  5. Saying “we” when referring to yourself.
  6. Calling the cops on kids.
  7. 90% of texting and phone calls are centered around food.
  8. NEVER knowing what you want to eat, but always knowing what you’d DON’T want to eat.
  9. Finding yourself at a grocery store on a Friday night and actually ENJOYING it.
  10. Not caring about looks and appearances as much anymore. Good or bad, take it or leave it.
  11. Staying in on Friday nights become a regular thing, and you’re not mad about it.
  12. When not making ANY plans is sometimes the best plan.
  13. The joy over getting to choose what you watch together.
  14. Selfless gestures of kindness without prompting.
  15. Accepting the things you cannot change (about yourself and your spouse).

But of all these signs, I think the best part by far of being 30 and married is finally being OK with who you are and the fact that you get to plan not just your own future, but your future with someone who you know will always be by your side.

TBT: Officially Saying Goodbye to 2016

Guys, I’m finally doing it. I’m finally going to be caught up on my blog! *big sigh of relief*

While there were a few more minor highlights of 2016, such as Friendsgivings (yes I had two), more photo shoots (including my first PAID shoot), friends’ birthday celebrations, a wedding, quality time with my niece and the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament (see photos below), I’d say our trip to Memphis was one of the last things of 2016 truly worth still blogging about.

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Third Annual Rook Friendsgiving

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Lucas’ 30th Birthday Party at Saratoga Lanes

 

25163830-6480-4D52-B8E5-DF48F82581B7.JPGAwesome fish eye shot by one of my volunteers at the Coaches vs. Cancer championship game!

Back in November, Tyler’s friend PJ and his wife Jennie invited us to join them on a weekend trip to Memphis for PJ’s 28th birthday. Actually, when we were trying to come up with a hashtag for the weekend, we decided we were celebrating PJ’s 40th birthday instead because it rhymed better: #pjsfortay See?

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Turns out PJ and Jennie like to travel like we do: eat and drink all the things. So they were the perfect travel buddies for us! Our first day was pretty gluttonous as a matter of fact, which started with a pit stop in Scott City, Mo., which was around the halfway mark on our way to Memphis.

PJ and Jennie are foodies like us, so when they told us we need to try the pizza from Casey’s (yes, the gas station), we were a little surprised. But, we trusted them, and split a taco pizza. Best part was, we were able to call it in on our way there so it was ready by the time we got there. Who knew gas station pizzas provided service like that?

Well that wasn’t the only thing we were surprised by, because it actually turned out to be pretty decent. And to class it up even more, we ate it out of the trunk of our car. We felt as though we were fitting in quite well in the small town of Scott City.

Two hours later, we arrived at our hotel in Memphis, dropped our stuff off and headed down to Beale Street, which was walking distance from our hotel. It was pretty cool, the best part being the walk-up bars where you can order your drinks to-go, made for walking up and down the street with. (Totally need to bring that to St. Louis!)

So, naturally, we had to get one of the infamous “Beale Big Ass Beers” from a walk-up bar. After walking around for a little bit, we worked up our appetite again so we stopped in for a snack at The Pig on Beale, where we all split an appetizer sampler, which was perfect. It included a sampling of BBQ pork nachos, smokin’ hot legs and onion rings. I remember the smokin’ hot legs (BBQ chicken) being pretty darn good.

When we were done it was almost time for the NBA game, which I forgot to mention was really the whole point of going to Memphis. PJ is a big LA Clippers fan, and that night they were playing against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Tyler and I aren’t really big NBA fans, although we did kind of get into it during the playoffs last year. Mostly thanks to PJ, who was rooting for the Clippers, while Tyler liked Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out. But th

to the Lebron Show, and I have since turned into a fan of him myself. So we thought going to our first NBA game together would be fun, and we were right!

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A little Grizzlies drum line action on Beale Street on our way to the game

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PJ was pretty excited about going to the game

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FedEx Forum: Home of the Grizzlies, otherwise known as “Grind City”

So here’s a fun fact about NBA games that I didn’t know: They play music, sometimes even live music, throughout the entire game. That’s right, even when the game is going on. I always thought hockey games played the best music, but I have to admit, NBA games give them a run for their money. The Grizzlies have a live house band that is on the stage between the lower bowl and the upper bowl of the stadium. Craziness.

The Clippers won, which made PJ happy, and we decided to celebrate by getting a post-game snack at Dyer’s Burgers, a recommendation from our fellow foodie/beer enthusiast friend, Zach. There are probably three people in the entire world that I absolutely, wholeheartedly trust when it comes to food recommendations, and Zach is one of them.

Dyer’s is famous in Memphis for their burgers, and we all know I love a good burger. Rumor has it that the secret to their insanely good burgers is the “ageless cooking grease.” Doesn’t sound so appetizing now, does it? Probably one of those things that’s better left unsaid. Ignorant bliss. Just eat it and enjoy.

But this cooking grease is so famous and so precious that every time Dyer’s has moved locations, it has been specially transported “under the watchful protection of armed police escorts,” according to their website. Now that sounds like some pretty special grease. And I must admit, I think it’s worth it, because their burgers are downright delicious. As always, good rec, Zach! (He never lets us down.)

 

We continued strolling along Beale Street, me feeling utterly full to the point of beer not even sounding good anymore (I know, I was that full, you guys). So we opted for Wet Willie’s, a bar that has every frozen drink concoction you’ve ever wanted and more. It was a perfect “dessert.” I got some sort of strawberry/banana/pina colada mix, I believe, and it was equal amounts of tasty and boozy. Be careful, they may taste yummy, but these frozen alcoholic slushies can really knock you on your feet.

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I think one of the best things about Beale Street is being able to get a drink from one bar and take it to the next one. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a bar you don’t want to be at anymore, but you have to wait until everyone is finished with their drinks before you can move on to the next one. Not the case in Memphis. St. Louis, please take note.

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After Wet Willie’s we stopped in Coyote Ugly, where we watched skimpily clad ladies dance on the bar, pour shots into guys’ mouths, and pull unassuming women up on to the bar where they were transformed into dancing “woo” girl machines right in front of our eyes. It was quite the show, y’all. After a few minutes too long, and the entire time feeling my recently turned age of 30 showing, we decided it was time to eat… again.

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Enter Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe. I believe Tyler saw this place earlier in the day and I’m pretty sure he decided right then and there that we would be back. A place that is famous for chicken and waffles gets a gold star in Tyler’s book, that’s for sure. In fact, if you Google “chicken and waffles Memphis,” Miss Polly’s is the first place that comes up. And rightfully so. I honestly cannot even tell you how we were able to stuff anything else into our already full bellies. But their chicken waffles were certainly on point. As was the apple pie skillet I ordered. Good ole southern cooking, y’all. Ya can’t beat it.

What’s even better is as we were walking back to our hotel, singing and dancing to “Walkin’ in Memphis” of course, we caught the swift smell of garlic and pizza. We had actually caught a whiff of this tantalizing scent on our way to the basketball game, and much the same as Tyler had made his decision about chicken and waffles, I believe I subconsciously made the decision I was going to have a date with that pizza later that night. And that I did. How, I honestly cannot tell you. But I did. And it was glorious.

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Then just a few minutes from the hotel, one of my favorite moments of the trip happened. We continued to sing and dance down the street to PJ’s phone, which I believe was playing “Broccoli,” and a Memphis cop stopped us. I don’t blame him, because I’m pretty sure we were walking right down the middle of the street. But he was awesome. I think he asked us where we were from, what we were listening to, then just laughed and told us to have a good night. Again, St. Louis, please take note!

And that, my friends, was the end to an amazing night in Memphis!

Saturday morning we woke up, checked out of our hotel and asked the concierge where would be a good place to grab breakfast. She said Automatic Slim’s, which was right down the street from our hotel, so off we went. I initiated my friend Jess’s plan of attack after a night of drinking: Caffeinate. Boozinate. Hydrate. I believe I got some sort of frittata, and Tyler got chicken and waffles. There aren’t too many people I know that end one night and start the next morning with the same dish, but that’s my husband for you. He’s pretty special.

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After breakfast we decided to go check out one of the music museums on Beale. We had a choice between the Memphis Music Hall of Fame or the Gibson Guitar Factory. We ended up not being able to do either, but it looked like the Gibson Guitar Factory would’ve been really cool. So we opted for the Memphis Zoo instead. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to another zoo other than the St. Louis Zoo, and for a paid admission zoo, it was pretty awesome.

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We somehow arrived at each exhibit just in time for feedings. We got to see them feed the grizzly bears, which actually wasn’t as exciting as I thought, because they just threw apples and fish at them. We were thinking more along the lines of the raptor feeding like they do in Jurassic Park, but not the case here.

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We also got what seemed like our own private viewing of them feeding the polar bear, which was pretty cool. Then by far the best feeding was the pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le. We got to watch them up close and personal with just some glass between us. Watching them go to town on some bamboo, while also playing the “Panda” song on our phones was definitely a highlight of the trip.

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Last but not least was a stop in my favorite part of any zoo, big cat country. At the St. Louis Zoo, all of the big cats are in pits that seem extremely far away, and typically they are hiding under rocks or in the trees and it’s hard to see them. On what turned out to be an unseasonably warm November day, all the big cats at the Memphis Zoo were out and about and I was in heaven!

My favorite part were the tigers (surprise, surprise), where we got to see two Bengal tigers, one orange and one white, and they were absolutely beautiful. And boy, were they active. The orange one, which I believe was the male, would not stop pacing around his enclosure, and every time he would pass the white tiger, she would growl at him. Every once in a while he would stop and they would swat at each other playfully, and it was awesome! We probably stood there for a good 15 minutes just watching them, hoping they would engage in full on play fighting, but they never really did. I could’ve pulled up a chair and just sat and watched them all day, they were so entertaining!

By the time we left we had worked up quite the appetite, so we set off to get some good, old fashioned Memphis BBQ for our last meal before we headed home. We’d heard about Commissary BBQ in Germantown (just outside of Memphis) from some friends of ours who used to live in Memphis, and are also foodies like us (probably more so). Actually, if I count them, that would make about five people in the world I truly trust when it comes to food recommendations. And they did not disappoint us.

I’m pretty sure Tyler and I split the “Boss Hog Special” (great name, right?) which came with four meats and and sides. Woof. We got ribs, BBQ shoulder, links AND chicken and it was all glorious. Best of all, it was only $25 for everything! That’s another thing I loved about Memphis, much like St. Louis, all of our meals were reasonably affordable and inexpensive, at least for vacationing purposes. We left with to-go cups of their famous banana pudding and we were set.

For a two-day, one-night, quick little weekend trip to a town only four hours or so away from St. Louis, it was the perfect little getaway to round out a pretty awesome 2016!

Cabin Fever

Cabin fever is a real thing, and after a couple weeks of staying in due to ice storms or cold weather at the beginning of January, we were ready to get out of the house. In fact, after the first icepocalypse of 2017 a couple weeks ago, which was supposed to keep us in all weekend, we broke out of the house on that Sunday to meet our friends for book club. And I’m so glad we did because it turned out to be the most epic book club ever.

Book Club Sunday Fun Day

The book was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which I gave an 8/10, because although it was a long read, it was worth it and very powerful. It was a pretty epic story of two twin boys and how they came to be growing up in Ethiopia. It was also so much more than that. I’d highly suggest it if you have the time!

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My favorite thing about our book club is where we have book club. Whoever picks the book (we go in a rotation based on birthdays) gets to pick the venue, and we try to go to new places, and lately we’ve been doing Sunday brunches around St. Louis.

The original venue for this particular book club was Brasserie by Niche in the Central West End, which was pretty amazing. They serve brunch on Saturdays and Sunday from 10am-2pm and I’d highly recommend it.

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Photo credit: margikahn.com

I got the hazelnut waffle, which is out of character for me, typically I go with biscuits and gravy, or a traditional eggs, potatoes and some sort of meat platter. But I was very pleasantly surprised by this waffle, which was topped with pineapple compote and creme fraiche. It was like having dessert for breakfast. They also serve Sump coffee, which I have never been to but have had their coffee several times and every time I am impressed.

Then, as we were wrapping up our book club discussion, in which each of us, starting with the person who picked the book, give the book a rating on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as our reasons behind the rating, we decided to grab a drink at iTap. We thought they opened at 11:30am, turns out they don’t open until noon, so we walked across the street to BBQ Saloon, where I got a Kentucky Mule (bourbon, lime juice and ginger beer). Once iTap opened, which I have to say, I had mixed feelings about being the first ones to walk into a bar on a Sunday, we began what turned into quite the Sunday fun day.

If you’ve never been to the iTap in CWE, it’s my favorite one, because it’s three levels and for some reason just has a better vibe than the other iTap locations.

Although I’ve never been to the newest one in Columbia and I heard it’s pretty cool, too. Since we were the first ones there, and the only ones there for what seemed like an hour or so, we had the whole top level to ourselves, which has a nice little lounge area and basically our own private bathroom, so none of us were in any hurry to leave. We ended our stay at iTap with a few rousing (and drunken) games of Jenga.

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Instead of heading home, because, why would you do that when you’re having this much fun, we decided we were hungry again (brunch was long forgotten by this point). So we decided to have dinner at Mission Taco, which I am so excited is coming to Streets of St. Charles! It was the perfect ending to the most epic, fun and expensive book club ever.

Weekend of Gluttony

Fast forward to last weekend, where we continued to live up the DINK life: dinner and drinks with friends at Urban Chestnut in Midtown (thanks to the lovely gift certificates from my wonderful ACS volunteers)! Followed by a girls brunch the next morning, in which we attempted to go to Half & Half in Clayton. However, the wait time for a table of 6 at 10am was two hours, so we opted for City Coffee House and Creperie instead.

This place had the largest selection of crepes I’ve ever seen, an almost overwhelming amount, I’d say. See for yourself. I went with the French Connection crepe, although I was very tempted to try to the chocolate chip Belgian waffles. When you’re at a restaurant that distinguishes itself as a “creperie” though, you kind of have to go with a crepe, at least for your first time. And I was not disappointed. This crepe was described as a traditional STL slinger inside a crepe, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong. It was filled with pepper jack, eggs, hasbrowns and chili, which is then topped with even more chili, cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onions. I cleaned my plate, needless to say.

Dinner on the Hill

It turned out to be a full girls day because I had dinner with two of my girlfriends at Anthonino’s later that evening. I have been to The Hill many times, but never to Anthonino’s and I was impressed as soon as I walked in the door. It doesn’t have the look and feel of your typical mom and pop type of Italian restaurants you most commonly find on the Hill. It was bright with updated decor and furniture, a little more upscale, even. And the food certainly did not disappoint either.

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Photo credit: guyfieri.com

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Photo credit: townandstyle.com

My friend who recommended the restaurant to us said we had to get the toasted ravioli, as they have been voted the best ravioli in St. Louis by the Riverfront Times five years in a row. Anthonino’s has also been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, although I’m not sure why because they really aren’t any of those things.

But the toasted ravioli certainly lived up to the hype. They are larger than your typical toasted ravioli, filled with perfectly cooked beef and the marinara sauce you dip them in is to die for.

For my main entree I got the gorgonzola sirloin, which was topped with Cremini mushrooms and served over polenta (Italian cornmeal) with rich bone marrow broth. My only wish is that it was served with more gorgonzola and mushrooms, and I could probably do without the polenta. But the steak was cooked to perfection and the flavor was incredible. The entree came with a house salad and my choice of alfredo pasta. The house salad was as good as any Italian salad, covered in dressing, and the pasta was good although I could’ve gone a little thicker on the sauce, it was a little light for my liking. All around I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. And I definitely want to go back and try their pizza, as it looked like a lot of people in the restaurant were ordering that.

Instead of getting dessert there, although I was very tempted to order a cannoli, I texted the same friend who recommended Anthonino’s to us if he had any ideas of where to go for dessert. He told us to go to Russell’s on Macklind, which I had never been to but had heard of before.

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Photo credit: eatseehome.com

It’s an adorable little corner shop with quite the collection of tasty desserts. They have a menu online but their dessert selection changes daily so they don’t have any menus actually in the restaurant. But the lovely lady working behind the counter, who had every single dessert memorized, gave us a full rundown before we made our decisions. I went with the turtle cheesecake which was topped with chocolate ganache and pecans. It was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had, so rich and creamy. They give you enormous slices, too. They also serve Kaldi’s coffee, so I had a cup of decaf which went wonderfully with the cheesecake.

Sunday Fun Day: Round 2

Our most recent Sunday fun day had nothing to do with books, but rather, another favorite hobby of ours: drinking beer. Our favorite local brewery, 4 Hands, released one of their best beers, Madagascar, an imperial milk stout aged in Templeton Rye barrels with whole vanilla beans. They were scheduled to open at noon, and our beer connoisseur friend Zach told us we should probably be in line by 9am if we wanted to guarantee our two beers per person allotment.

As I’ve learned over the years of going to these beer releases and festivals with Zach, is that as extreme as it may sound to get in line three hours before a place is set to open for a beer, if you really want that beer, he is more than likely right on point. What makes that pill even harder to swallow is the fact that the high for that morning wasn’t going to make it out of the 40s, and we were expected to get some snow flurries. Yippee.

But once again, he was right. Tyler and arrived right after 9am and we were probably already 50 or so people back in line. What’s funny is Zach actually didn’t arrive closer to 10am, but they were probably another 30+ people behind us by that time. If it weren’t for the wind that day, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but alas, it was quite the cold and breezy day.

But the beer gods were shining down on us, because not too long after arriving, they told us they were serving free, piping hot coffee, which was amazing. Then they let my girlfriend and I inside to use the restroom before they opened (hallelujah!) and last but not least, they opened up an hour early, woo hoo! They also upped the beer allotment to four per person, but at $23/bottle we weren’t about to spend nearly $200 on beer that day, so we stuck with four between the two of us, which is plenty.

After purchasing our beer, we went upstairs to enjoy it on draft as well (I may or may not have indulged a little on the 5 oz. pours) and it was the worth the wait. In all honesty, I’ve started to shy away from stouts lately, opting more for my traditional hoppy IPAs, mostly because they were getting to be a little too boozy for me, and the hangovers are awful. But Madagascar is perfectly balanced as an imperial milk stout, the milk stout making it a little lighter and easier to drink than your typical stouts, and the vanilla giving it the perfect amount of flavor. It’s heavenly, my friends.

Once the booze started to settle in, we started to get hungry, as I was too cold to order anything from the food truck that was outside, Farm Truk. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to try their slinger though, which sounded pretty tasty. Also, I just looked them up on Facebook and found out I made it in one of their pictures, dressed accordingly as an eskimo and wrapped in a blanket my friend Anna let me borrow:

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I seriously need to work on my RBF, guys. It’s a real problem.

It looks as though I am already regretting my decision to not order anything, and the hanger has already started to settle in.

So we decided to satisfy our hunger by going to the new Sugarfire establishment, Hi Pointe Drive In. Tyler had already tried it for lunch earlier that week and gave it a raving review, which was spot on.

We walked in around 2pm on a Saturday and the line was already snaked around the booths, but it looked like it was moving pretty fast. Plus once you step inside, the smell of the burgers frying on the grill hypnotize you and convince you it was worth the wait. There’s really no going back at that point. That smell also clings to your hair and clothes afterwards, fair warning.

Photo credit: Hi Pointe Drive In

As you can see in the photos above, their burgers and shakes are on point. I went with the simple single steak burger with white cheddar, fries and split a donut shake with Tyler that was everything I’ve ever wanted in a shake. I’m talkin’ real bits of donut IN the shake, people. It was life changing. I will definitely be back. In fact my mouth is watering and my tummy is grumbling right now as I’m writing about it.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to wrap up this blog post right now so I can warm my leftover dinner from Rich and Charlie’s last night. They have the best chicken marsala and I have been craving that, along with their bread, salad and alfredo pasta, all of which are top notch, for weeks now. So Tyler agreed to go there for dinner with me last night. We also had Stefanina’s for dinner on Sunday.

Guys, if you couldn’t tell, I freaking love food. And I think it’s all been rather fitting because it would’ve been my dad’s 55th birthday on Sunday, and these are all things he would’ve enjoyed (Stef’s and Rich and Charlie’s being two of his favorites, for sure). I think he probably would’ve gotten into the craft beer craze, too. So cheers to a man who taught me that you can, in fact, live to eat, not just eat to live. 🙂

Throwback Thursday: Turning 30

I can’t believe January is almost over already and here I am talking about my 30th birthday that happened three months ago. But turning 30 is a pretty big milestone, I think, and I would regret not ever blogging about it!

After all the build up, turning 30 wasn’t so bad after all. My plan of having the most epic birthday party ever (even better than my 21st, dare I say) was a success. Leading up to the “Kanna-Chan Drink-A-Thon,” I was showered with gifts and well wishes from my friends and family:

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On my actual birthday I awoke to a card and presents from my husband, as is our tradition on each other’s birthdays: We don’t wait until dinner or the end of the day to give each other our presents, which I can totally appreciate because growing up my dad always made us wait until the end of the day – it was torture!

Tyler got me a new a camera case, scarf and chocolates. A little bit later, I received an email from Starbucks saying my sister had sent me an e-gift card. My day was already off to a good start and I hadn’t even left the house yet!

Like most adults, I had to work on my birthday, which meant driving out to Warrenton for meetings and continuing into the evening with my Coaches vs. Cancer committee meeting, where I was pleasantly surprised with cake and presents, nonetheless.

Unbeknownst to me, the CVC Tournament Director, and my now CVC partner-in-crime, Keith, read my blog and saw that I wrote about having to work on my birthday. He secretly sent out an email to the committee, and they responding by bringing me cards and gifts, which was unnecessary but it made for an extra special 30th birthday! (Apparently there are perks to writing this blog after all!) When I finally got home, my husband was waiting for me with yet another cake (ice cream cake this time – my favorite!) and flowers. He is truly the best!

I also received a gift from afar, a sweet package from my sister Sarang who’s going to school in San Francisco. She got me a coffee mug and super comfy sweatshirt, both are San Francisco souvenirs!

The actual day of my 30th birthday was great and all, but it was nothing compared to the celebration that happened that weekend.

Dubbed the “Kanna-Chan Drink-A-Thon,” I rented out the most baller party bus I’ve ever seen (like seriously, they rolled out a red carpet for us – tell me that’s not baller), got 30 or so of my best friends together and headed out for a day at the wineries in Augusta and Defiance.

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Yes, I even had koozies made and my own hashtags. #baller

It was everything I dreamed of and more. That day will live forever in my youthful heart.I couldn’t stop smiling or bouncing up and down from all of the happiness that was bubbling up inside of me.

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I remember I kept thinking it felt like my wedding day, only way less stressful. I mean we even started the day at the place we got married, Wine Country Gardens.

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I also made a pretty epic playlist, and if you don’t (or didn’t) think it is (was) epic, then too bad, because I made it for myself and I loved it. The party bus was seriously my favorite part, and I was so glad so many of my friends could join me on such an epic day!

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The bus picked us up from our house, where we provided sandwiches and snacks (that my hubby very graciously took care of for me) and got the party started with some mimosas, of course. And then we were off to Wine Country Gardens! I actually had a very strict schedule, surprising, I know, but it was to optimize the amount of fun and drinking to be had! The planner in me couldn’t help it. Yet I was pleasantly surprised that we pretty well stuck to it!

I wanted to go to three places: Wine Country, Noboleis and Augusta Brewing, and we had the bus for six hours, so I allotted for about an hour at each place, and it actually worked out perfectly. The day turned out to be hotter than expected, but absolutely beautiful in the shade. And somehow we were able to finding seating for all of us at each place (don’t worry – I also called each place ahead of time to let them know we were coming).

At Noboleis, Tyler’s second cousin Gabe was able to give us a behind-the-scenes tour, which was awesome. My cousin Rachel also brought her fancy camera to capture great photos like these:

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Then our last stop was August Brewing, which was a nice break from all the wine. Again, we somehow managed to have the whole place to ourselves (or so it seemed):

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I do remember trying to get our party bus to let us stay longer, but I believe they had a wedding to go to or something and therefore could not let us do so. We tried, at least.

After the bus dropped us off (which was so sad), we continued the party at our house (although I’m not sure how). I honestly remember waking up the next day and feeling depressed knowing it was all over. I kept watching everyone’s snapchats over and over again so I could relive it all again and again, but that only lasted for 24 hours. It was truly one of the most fun days ever, and worth telling about even if it is three months later!