From Beer Pong to Bubbles

Tyler! Tyler, get in here! I scream from the bathroom. What is it? he asks. There’s another one! I yell. A spider? he asks as he comes rushing in. No, I say, dramatically. It’s worse… another gray hair.

Seriously? I was in the middle of watching something.

I need you to get it out.

It’s kind of sexy, just leave it in there.

*look of death*

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And that, my friends, was the end of Tyler.

Just kidding. But as my 31st birthday creeps closer and closer, I do fear the end of my youth is near.

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It dies slowly, I think. Hardly noticing it, at first. A creak there, an ache there… then you get a chiropractor, and start taking Tums like they’re candy. It’s a slow process, but then you turn 30. And you feel like the old age that began faintly knocking on the door of your youth in your late 20s is now POUNDING down that door.

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Take my gray hairs, for example. I think I found my first one when I was 28 or 29. I have now plucked what I believe to be that same gray hair three or four times. It just keeps coming back, as stubborn as I am, sometimes hiding beneath the rest of my dark hair, thinking I won’t see it again until it is fully grown. Then one day the light hits it perfectly and BAM it’s there, and you wonder how you never saw it before. That’s how old age hits you.

It starts with your metabolism. The beer, the junk food, the chips… you can no longer eat like a garbage disposal without consequences. Then, the hangovers. Going HAM multiples nights in a row was the norm in college. We started drinking Wednesday night, and we didn’t stop until Sunday. (OK some of us never stopped at all.) But your hangovers only lasted a few hours, and if they lasted longer, it didn’t matter because it was probably time to start drinking again anyway.

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We watched the “Jerry Before Seinfeld” Netflix special last night, which was pretty good – he had me in tears at a few points. Also – weird side note: Growing up, my mom used to say, “Dad’s on TV!” when Seinfeld was on, because my dad looked so much like Jerry. Like, seriously:

Then, last night, I learned that he is also left-handed (so was my dad), and his dad’s name was Cal (also my grandpa’s name). #weird

Anyway, he does a bit about what kids think “being an adult” means. One of them is always checking your pockets for things: your keys, wallet, glasses, etc. He says when you’re a kid, and someone asks you if you have something, you just hold out your hands and say “No,” because when you’re a kid, you hold everything you own in your hands. You don’t have anything to put in pockets, or maybe you don’t even have pockets to put things in. I remember wanting a purse so bad when I was little, because to me, that’s what being an adult meant. Now I hate having purses, which is why I only buy the kind that you can sling over your shoulder and hopefully not notice it’s there.

The other thing he said he remembered growing up was how boring it was running errands with his mom, going to the wallpaper store (personally I don’t think I’ve ever been to one of those) or to the bank, and how he thought being an adult meant being able to stand in a line, doing nothing, and being OK with it. He said as a kid, he would just lay down in the middle of the floor while waiting in line in the bank, because the boredom would just overcome him and he didn’t know how else to handle it. But as an adult, you say, “OK I’m standing in line, doing nothing. This is fine.” And that about sums up adulthood. Being fine with the boredom of life and the everyday, mundane tasks we have to do to get by. Personally I have always loved running errands, probably because I don’t think there’s a better feeling than crossing something of your to-do list… then again I’ve always kind of been an old soul.

But simply put, we’re OK with doing boring, adult things because we are tired. We’re tired of fighting it and would rather just go with the flow because it’s easier. We’re tired of planning things to do all the time and making decisions because that’s what we do at work all week, and when the weekend hits, we don’t want to make one more decision. I think that’s why deciding where to eat is always so hard. All you want to do is chill. At home. On the couch. Watching Netflix. When you realize this is your idea of an exciting Friday night, it’s all over.

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At some point, you realize your days of playing beer pong and flip cup at parties and BBQs have turned into blowing bubbles and doing whatever you can to entertain the children at the party rather than yourselves (or chasing them around to keep them out of trouble). I noticed this at a BBQ we had over Labor Day weekend. I walked downstairs expecting my husband to be playing bags or pool with his buddies, drinking beer, only to find he was instead blowing bubbles with my friends’ little girls, chasing them around the yard. It was adorable, yes, but not what I expected. How did we get here? When did this happen?

And that, my friends, is how old age gets ya. Here’s to turning 31 next week, and enjoying one of the few perks of getting older – just not giving a damn. So guess what, gray hair and creaky bones and achy muscles and two-day long hangovers and heartburn? I’m as stubborn as you are so bring it on, because I’m not going down easy.

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A Weekend of Indulgence

Tyler and I celebrated our fourth anniversary last week a couple months ago.

Once again, this is how bad I am about keeping up with this blog. Started this post back in August, and now here we are. Always playing catch up, story of my life. In fact, this past weekend we went to the Roots ‘N Blues festival in Columbia, which if you knew that, you were probably thinking that’s what this blog post was going to be about. But nah, I probably won’t get around to blogging about THAT until November-December, at the rate I’m going. But back to our anniversary weekend… which was too good of a weekend to pass up and not blog about, so here you go:

Sometimes I think, how has it already been four years? And other times, I’m like, how has it only been four years? Life is weird. So is marriage. And time.

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Still the best day of my life.

In our typical DINK fashion, we celebrated big, because what else do you do when you don’t have kids? I booked another stay at our favorite bed and breakfast, Stoneridge Farms in Augusta. Once again, it did not disappoint.

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We actually got a late start to the day, because Tyler had forgot that he signed up to volunteer at the Little Bit Foundation, which might be the cutest little non-profit organization that has ever existed in St. Louis. And when I say late start, I meant a late start on heading out to the wineries, because it certainly wasn’t a “late start” for a Saturday morning. My wonderfully sweet and thoughtful husband mistakenly thought we were supposed to be there at 8 a.m., which if anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that is early for me on a weekend. He did manage to bribe me with Starbucks… however, when we arrived and figured out we weren’t supposed to be there until 9 a.m., let’s just say I was a little less than pleased.

But, back to the happy part…

Enterprise did a big back to school supply drive for them, and donated something like 800 backpacks full of school supplies for underprivileged kids, which is the biggest supply drive the foundation has ever had. Pretty awesome, right? Then we got to go help them organize all their donations, including books, school uniforms and putting together sanitary kits. My favorite part was putting together their “Books & Buddies” kits, which involved pairing books with stuffed animals, all of which are donated!

After we did our good deed for the day, we were starving, so we decided to grab brunch at Katie’s Pizza and Pasta in Rock Hill. As always, it met all of our expectations and then some. Tyler got the Fig French Toast, topped with mixed berries, whipped cream, crispy pancetta and the most decadent figs I’ve ever had. I got a very traditional breakfast of three wood oven-cooked eggs, over easy, of course, with Fiama sausage (so tasty), Calabrese peppers (which were pretty spicy) and fingerling potato hash. Top it all off with a pitcher of mimosas and there was no doubt in either of our minds it was going to be a good day. It could only go up from here. And that it did.

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After going home to change and let the dogs out, we headed out to our first stop and favorite winery in Augusta, Noboleis.

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This was a new wine they happened to release that day, I believe. It was so buttery, oaky and delicious!

While we still love their wine and the view, the live music that day left much to be desired, to say the least. Pretty sure the singer (if you could call him that) had a few too many and thought maybe it didn’t matter what he played or sounded like since the crowd was a little light. It was so bad we even moved to get further away from the tent he was playing under, but it was up on a hill so the sound just carried. The last straw for me was when he tried to play a John Lennon song and just absolutely butchered it. I couldn’t take it anymore, we left before even finishing our bottle of wine.

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In front of our favorite bed and breakfast in Augusta!

Because of our late start, we decided to go check in to our bed and breakfast before heading out for the evening, knowing most of the wineries close in the evenings due to weddings and special events. We knew Montelle always stayed open later because of their sunset dinners, which we also knew better to avoid this time. Funny thing was, we ran into my new boss, who was about to partake in the sunset dinner! How strange to not run into her for ten years then after just a month of working for her again I run into her? #lifeisweird

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His and hers. A dry vignoles for me, the Norton for him. The cookies were for both of us. 🙂

Hopefully her sunset dinner was better than ours was last year. This time, based on my good friend Jerry’s recommendation (fellow foodie and writer from the now sadly defunct What’s Up St. Chuck), we opted for the Silly Goose in downtown Augusta. Don’t let the name fool you though, because believe me, there is nothing silly about this place, other than their food being silly good.

Other than Jerry’s recommendation, we had no idea what to expect. To be honest, as much as I love the Augusta area, AKA the wineries, brewery, winding roads and views, I have to admit I’ve always been a little less than impressed with downtown Augusta.

Other than the brewery, I don’t have much reason to go there. I’ve never been to Augusta Winery or Holy Grail, although I’ve heard I need to try Holy Grail, at least. Mount Pleasant is completely underwhelming and has too much of a corporate/touristy feel to it and their wine is way overpriced for the quality.

So I think you get the point by now – my expectations for the Silly Goose were low, although hopeful because Jerry has yet to steer us wrong. So with the bar low and our hopes high, Silly Goose surpassed all our expectations and more.

 

 

As you can see from the photos above, we went all out with a three course meal. For starters, Tyler convinced me to order the fried green tomatoes, which I was weary of, due to the fact that I can’t recall ever having tried them before. If all fried green tomatoes taste like this though, count me IN. They basically tasted like fried onion rings to me, topped with a marinated crab salad and a remoulade sauce that was to die for. SO. GOOD.

For our main course, I opted for the bourbon pecan encrusted pork chop (yes you read that all correctly) over Yukon Gold potatoes and a rich bourbon sauce that was, again, to DIE FOR. Tyler went with his staple chicken ‘n waffles, which we were told was actually their staple, so he had to try it. These were not your typical chicken ‘n waffles. These were the BEST chicken ‘n waffles either of us had ever had, and we’ve tried them all over the place (KC, Chicago and Memphis, that I can recall off the top of my head). This “free range” chicken was covered in their house made breading that was perfectly crunchy yet moist on the inside, on top of perfectly cooked buttermilk waffles, covered in a bourbon vanilla maple syrup with sorghum butter. Need I say more?

Last but not least, we of course had to get dessert, which was a blueberry lemon cheesecake – right up my alley. It was the perfect way to end a surprisingly amazing meal.

Our last stop for the night was John G’s Bier Deck, once again based on a recommendation from my trusted source and fellow foodie confidant, the one and only Jerry Castellano. And, once again, Jerry did not lead us astray. The Bier Deck, which is behind John G’s Tap Room in Washington, Mo., overlooks the Missouri River, which unfortunately we couldn’t see much of at night. The same owner of those two establishments also owns and operates Augusta Brewery.

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When we returned back to Stoneridge, one of our gracious hosts had fallen asleep outside waiting for us with a bonfire. As polite guests we indulged and cozied up to the fire and finished up a bottle of wine from earlier in the evening. It was a great way to end a perfect day! But our weekend of indulgences did not end there.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to this beautiful view from our room’s balcony:

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And we had another wonderful breakfast prepared for us by Jeannine. She had actually asked us the night before if we remembered what she made for us last year, which of course we did, and she kindly offered to change up her menu to make us something different. It may have been different, but her cooking once again exceeded my expectations. She made us eggs, turkey sausage, Japanese potato hash (how did she know?) and last but not least, a delectably sweet strawberry, cream and chocolate crepe.

 

Normally, this probably would’ve been our best meal of the day. But this was not going to be any ordinary Sunday. We had made plans to have lunch with Tyler’s family and dinner with my family, too (we have a problem with overbooking ourselves, we know), so the day was only just beginning.


For lunch, Tyler’s parents came over to celebrate Tyler’s birthday, which was the week before. He had requested her manicotti, which was delicious as always. Man, that woman can cook. You can tell she has Italian in her blood with the way she makes pizza, lasagna and one of my favorites… chicken marsala. I believe I have requested all of these at different times for my birthday meal… which is coming up next week! She also makes the most incredible salads ever. I think I’m salivating right now just thinking about all the wonderful food Peggy Rook can cook!

Last, but not least, we went out to dinner with my family at Wudon, a Korean BBQ place in Maryland Heights, off Olive and Fee Fee. My stepdad being Korean (as you all may recall from my last post), we figured this place had to be good if he liked it. In Korean, “wu” means cow and “don” means pig, so the name literally means “Cow and Pig.” Yum!

Side note: We watched Okja over the weekend, and man, did they do a decent job of almost convincing me to never eat meat again… but alas, it’s just too tasty. It really does make you think about the treatment of animals in the meat industry, though… 

Back to Wudon. The place was packed on a Sunday night. If you are looking for a quiet, sit-down dinner, this is not the place for you. It’s hot and smoky, smells of delicious meats cooking on table-top griddles, and there are lots and lots of Asians running around. I’m sure Tyler definitely felt out of place, which is normal when we go anywhere with my family of five and a half Asians.

I don’t even know how to explain to you everything I ate, or how I had the room to eat as much as I did, but this review by the Riverfront Times does a pretty good job of explaining it. My stepdad took the reins and just started ordering food, which came out in waves of tiny little dishes filled with tasty goodness, otherwise known as “banchan” or Korean appetizers. I don’t even remember all the meat we had, I assume it was some variations of beef and pork – and it was all mouth-wateringly delicious.

To say I was uncomfortably full after this Korean feast would be quite the understatement. Remember, this was after our lovely Italian lunch, which came after the big breakfast we had to start the day. I don’t think I’ve eaten better or that much since that day, and I have no plans to top it. It may go down in our history book as the most glorious day of delicious food ever.


And one may think that was it for our fourth anniversary celebration. But if you know the Rooks, you know we like to take any excuse to celebrate and eat and drink to our heart’s content. So on our actual anniversary just four days later, we decided to try two new breweries in town: Third Wheel and Good News.

We had heard good things about Third Wheel, which had opened in a rather odd location in St. Peters, just north of the Cave Springs exit off Hwy 70, and not much about Good News, which opened down the street from us on Hwy K in the older part of O’Fallon.

 

I was rather impressed with Third Wheel’s beers, including their flagship Ophelia’s Wit, “a traditional Belgian Wit beer with coriander and orange peel and a surprising a hint of rosemary that adds a sweet, herbaceous note,” (loved the rosemary in it) and I believe we also had the Dyslexic API, “a well-balanced Imperial IPA with lactose added then dry hopped with Columbus and Simcoe hops.”

Food is provided by the Window Kitchen, which is literally what it sounds like off to the side of the restaurant/brewery. I got the Island Burger, which featured a grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce and garlic aioli on a toasted bun. Tyler opted for a wrap of sort that I can’t remember, but I do remember he was not too impressed by it. My burger, on the other hand, was pretty good.

Good News was unfortunately quite the opposite experience. Both breweries opened around the same time this summer, but Good News seemed a little further behind Third Wheel. It’s a cute little place in north O’Fallon, just down the street from O’Fallon Bowl. The inside isn’t big, but it’s decorated nicely and it has a great patio that can seat plenty at its rows of picnic tables.

The service and beer selection were underwhelming, though. When we walked up to the bar inside, we were told if we wanted to sit outside, there are servers out there that could help us. So we went outside to sit and we waited. And waited. And waited some more, before we decided to walk back in to order our beer.

Then we discovered many of the beers we wanted to try were out, including the Mosaic IPA and the Citra IPL, so we had to settle for the Belgian White, which was about as exciting as it sounded. They also serve wood-fired pizzas, but only offer five options, all of which seemed pretty ordinary, and after seeing them, we hoped they tasted better than they looked.

As much as we loved the vibe of the place and wanted to support a local brewery just down the street from us, it’s been hard mustering up the motivation to go back. I know we will give them another chance, but maybe next year once they’ve had some time to figure everything out a little more.

And, THAT, my friends, FINALLY sums up our weekend/week of indulgence, all centered around our fourth wedding anniversary, which normally doesn’t sound that exciting – but when you’re us, you make it exciting!

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We’re all a little weird

Tonight we are planning to attend one of my favorite events of the year: St. Charles Oktoberfest. As a lover of German culture (I took German for seven years and almost majored in it in college) and beer… this festival was made for me. I’ve been told I’m 1/8 to a 1/4 German… my grandmother on my father’s side’s maiden name was Reich, which means “empire” in German. I’ve always said I’m a meat and potatoes (and bread) kind of girl… which is inherently German.

But as I prepare to embrace and celebrate my German heritage tonight, I thought I would share what it’s been like growing up with the other half of my heritage. I actually wrote this blog post two months ago, and for some reason never published it. Such is my life… so let’s pick up where I left off:

Being the child of an immigrant parent is not exactly a walk in the park. Growing up, there weren’t too many kids I knew who dealt with what I did. I knew I was different from a lot of my friends and kids in class, but I didn’t take the time to think about why that was a good thing, and instead all I ever wished for was to be “normal.”

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What does “normal” mean to 9-year-old Kanna? Having two Caucasian, naturally-born American parents who were still married. Instead I was a child of divorce, and not only that, but I lived with my dad, which was rare even for the divorced kids.

And to top it all off, I had an Asian mother who I hardly saw and when she was around, I was embarrassed by her accent and lack of knowledge of the English language as well as her failure to pick up on American social cues. I always had to translate what she was saying to servers and store clerks, and vice versa when she didn’t understand them. I never had, and still don’t have much patience for this.

But to be fair, my mother has now lived in this country longer than she lived in Japan, so the fact that her accent is still as thick as it was the day she got here is no longer a novelty, but purely a testament to her stubbornness and unwillingness to fully assimilate into American culture. (Which may be why her second husband is from Korea.)

Mom, if you’re reading this… I love you!

However, for perhaps the first time in my life that I can recall, I witnessed someone else struggle with what I have been dealing with all my life. My friend Rita, who’s Russian, was in town over the weekend a couple months ago to celebrate her getting her PhD.

Her parents, who I had never met before and are both originally from the Ukraine, were there as well. Her dad tried to propose a toast, but instead of tapping a glass, clapping or getting everyone’s attention by any means, he simply walked over to Rita and told her he wanted to make a toast, knowing she would do what she has probably done all her life for him: translate.

“My dad would like to make a toast, everyone,” Rita said warily, afraid of what her dad might say to embarrass her in front of her friends (a fear I still hold to this day with my mom). Once everyone quieted down, we all looked to her dad, who said nothing, at first. I thought it was for dramatic effect, but then Rita blurted out, “Well now you have to say something, Dad.” He looked startled, as if he was unaware that he was supposed to say anything at all, that perhaps all he wanted to do was raise a glass to his dear daughter. Upon discovering he had captured the whole group’s attention at this point, he looked at Rita and said, “You translate for me.” To which she responded curtly, but respectfully, “No, use your words. In English, please.”

Personally, I would’ve loved to have heard her dad give a toast in his native tongue, but I fully understand that it does not seem as cool when it’s your parent. As the child, what everyone else finds endearing, cute or funny, you have witnessed a thousand times and it has never emitted that type of emotion or response.

He proceeded to say something short and sweet, at this point I don’t even remember because I was so enthralled by this exchange that I was so used to experiencing first hand, it felt odd to experience it second hand as a bystander. 

Afterwards I brought all of this up to Rita and it was so nice to be able to vent to someone about growing up with an immigrant parent that I realized it’s something I’ve never shared with anyone except my siblings. I soon discovered that it doesn’t matter where your parents are from, the struggles of being the children of immigrant parents are often the same.

The biggest complaint from both Rita and I was the catch-22 situation in which they always want to feed you, yet they also constantly comment on your weight, whether it’s good or bad. It’s either, “You’re not eating enough,” or, “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds,” along with a bevy of other more or less “polite” (or not at all) ways to say, “You look fat.” But one thing is clear no matter what your weight: it’s never just right. It’s as if all foreign parents have a Goldilocks complex when it comes to their children’s weight.

Rita had a friend from Korea who was sitting across from us as we compared our childhoods, and from experience with my Korean stepdad, I knew she had it the worst. There is something about Korean culture that is worse than American culture as far as the expectation for women to be ridiculously skinny (and in my mind, unhealthily so). Basically having an ounce of fat on your body is considered being overweight. You’re a stick, or you’re nothing. Well, not nothing. You’re fat, and you will hear about it.

My mother will always ask me if I want food the second I walk in the door, and once I start eating, won’t stop asking me if I want more until I’m done. This is very typical of Japanese mothers, which is also common for Italian mothers, Ukrainian mothers and mothers of many other ethnicities, apparently, and even more so in grandmothers (especially mine).

But my stepdad has no qualms about chiming in when he thinks I’ve had enough by simply shouting, “Kanna! No more! No good!” To tell you the truth, half the time that just makes me want to eat even more just to spite him and show him I could care less what he thinks I should and shouldn’t eat. But let’s get off that subject before we start going down THAT rabbit hole.

As my dad used to say when my grandma would start blabbing on about something he either didn’t care about or didn’t care to discuss in front of us kids, “How about them Cardinals?”

Speaking of which… how in the heck did we end up in the Wild Card race?

See? Six months out of the year, that diversion actually works.

I just had Tyler read what I had written up until this point, and when he was done he asked, “What’s your point? All you’re doing is complaining. You just sound crabby. It needs an ending.”

So you want a moral to my story, huh? Well I guess the moral is… everyone thinks they are weird. Or, more accurately, everyone thinks they are normal until they grow up, and then they realize that there really is no such thing as “normal.”

Take Tyler, for instance. His parents are both white and have been married for over 40 years. I would’ve considered that “normal” as a kid. But what you might not know is that he spent the better part of his childhood growing up in Australia where his parents served as missionaries, and he was home-schooled until high school.

The majority of my college friends are Catholic and grew up in very traditional Catholic families, pretty much all of their parents are still together and they are all white. But who knows what their childhoods were really like? Who knows what went on “behind the scenes?” One of my friends didn’t own a pair of jeans until college, and his idea of a good sandwich was bologna and ketchup. Who’s to say that’s weird or not?

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My friends are as weird as I am, and that’s why they’re my friends.

I guess my real point is, we’re all a little weird, and that’s what we should truly consider “normal.”

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

– Dr. Seuss

An Unrequited Love

There’s nothing like your first love. The first time you get that warm and fuzzy feeling, that first kiss. But there’s also nothing like your first heart break. That feeling of your heart being ripped out of your chest and someone stomping all over it. The break downs, the tears. Even if you knew for a while the relationship was doomed, you wanted to make it work. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget all the bad and just remember the good.

Isn’t it funny how we tend to see things in the past through rose-colored glasses? Whether it’s people, places, jobs, etc. It’s easy to paint something or someone as so wonderful after they’re gone, even if in the moment, it was actually terrible. Or on the flip side, you could realize after the fact that you actually had it pretty good. It’s easy to be thankful for something that has already come and gone. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

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But eventually, you move on. And you begin to see the light after the storm. You begin to see everything for what it really was, now that you’ve removed yourself from the situation and all the emotions that came with it.

As I told you all a couple weeks ago, I really miss my coworkers and volunteers from ACS, many of whom became close friends. Now that I’m almost two months removed from the job, I realize how much I still care about the mission of ACS. But towards the end of my career with ACS, I felt as though my love and passion for the cause was an unrequited love. I had reached a point where it didn’t matter how much I cared about ACS, because I didn’t feel valued enough as an employee anymore.

Isn’t that all it really comes down to in happiness and fulfillment with our jobs? We want to feel valued and appreciated, that’s it. Pretty simple. It’s unbelievable how many employers can mess that up, though. It truly amazes me, how something so simple can be so often forgotten.

At the same time, I am not sure if I will ever be as passionate about a job again as I was with ACS. Just as it is with your first love, you think, how will I ever love anything as much ever again? Then you realize that every love is different. And you will love again, but maybe not the same, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I had all of these thoughts as I was driving home from my first post-ACS happy hour last night with people that I’m sure (many who still work at ACS and many who don’t) have had those same feelings at some point. I was playing Gary Clark, Jr., and I literally could not turn up the music loud enough in my car to match the emotions I was feeling. How much I missed my former coworkers, how much I missed being in the city, how much I missed the camaraderie of working for a nonprofit.

It must be just a tiny, tiny taste of what it feels like to be in the military and have that kind of a bond with your fellow servicemen and women. I truly felt as though I had gone into battle with those ladies. Maybe we didn’t fight for our country, and maybe we don’t have any physical bruises to show for it (or maybe we do… setting up for Relay events could be rough on the body sometimes), but we all fought for something we truly believed in.

Funny story, we actually had to defend ACS against someone who was naysaying the organization and questioning where the money went. Out of the four of us, only one of us would still be employed at ACS in a week. That’s how much working at ACS still meant to all of us. I think the mission will always be important to us, long after our departures from ACS have passed.

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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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