This year is already halfway over, how great is that? Here’s what I’ve been up to this month off the blog.
- My dad requested we eat at Pastaria for Father’s Day. What’s not to like about pizza, pasta, and gelato?
- Vanilla is not a boring flavor at Clementine’s Creamery. I had a chance to sample some a a picnic and it was a new view on plain vanilla. The shop is located just off Lafayette Square Park in the city.
- My favorite recipe from this month comes once again from Gina at Skinnytaste. The zucchini she suggests you add to turkey burgers really takes the flavor up a notch and my husband loved the Greek burgers almost as much as I did.
- I won a year’s membership to the St. Louis Art Museum and got to attend the members’ picnic this past weekend. We had picnic foods, avoided the rain, saw the new Senufo exhibit and sculpture garden, and enjoyed some of that Clementine’s ice cream I mentioned above.
- I have nothing but great things to say about Netflix this month. Another good season of Orange is the New Black and if you haven’t yet watched Daredevil then you need to! This is better than the movie version with Bennifer v2 in it a decade ago.
- I’ve also been enjoying my Amazon Prime access to TV shows. Catastrophe is a hilarious take on love and other things. With just 6 short episodes you could binge watch in one sitting but I suggest you savor it.
- Our desk has arrived! Now I need to build shelves, settle on a rug and office chairs, and keep a lookout for a new light.
- We cleared out a decent part of the basement and installed our first set of shelves. We celebrated by sitting in the basement during a tornado watch on Sunday night.
- My in-laws drove into the city to join us in some architectural salvage hunting. We did a circle of the town stopping at Cherokee Street to visit Riverside Antiques, Junque over in the Lemp Brewery, Architectural Artifacts off Lafayette, and Refab. Then we went back to Cherokee Street for Mexican at Neveria La Vallesana.
On the Web
- The Missouri History Museum has an exhibit running called “A Walk in 1875 St. Louis” featuring the Compton & Dry maps of St. Louis at the turn of the last century. I’m enjoying reading Distilled History’s hunt for the breweries open then and now.
- Here’s a spotify playlist made by some women on /r/xxfitness that pairs great with a workout.
- I have a weird fascination with true crime and IO9’s true crime page isn’t helping.
- Ikea has announced they are opening the St. Louis store on September 30. I work just a block away so this will be quite dangerous.
- I celebrated 1 year with my new employer in June. Not everything about this job is perfect but it’s starting to feel like home. I miss my close friends at my last job and the good I felt I was doing in the world but beyond that I have no regrets about moving on. Ask a Manager was one of the best sites to help me make the decision to leave and helped me form a plan to do it.
- Last year was a hard year for me when it came to food and working out with the job change and house hunt. I’ve managed to lose all the weight I gained in 2014 and then some. I’ve also stuck to my goal of only eating out once a week at lunch for all of 2015. Next week I am joining a gym in my new neighborhood so I stay on the right track.
I have had it with my basement. I haven’t unpacked all the tools because I don’t have a workbench yet at this house. I don’t have a workbench since I don’t know where all the tools are. The cycle seems a little silly when I have bookshelves, tote shelves, potting benches, and more in the queue to be built and yet it is all dependent on getting my basement organized. I know making a craft room for the blog would be pretty and finished off the office would be nice but none of it can happen until I can build. So, enough is enough- the basement is the priority now.
Are you ready for the horror that awaits?
This is one big project ahead of us. (That’s right husband, us!) We have some issues: our last house had no space so everything lived in the basement and the old owners left a bunch of stuff in the basement. For issue 1 we will need to unpack some things but as a temporary solution all the totes and seasonal items will live on some wooden shelves we’ll be building. For issue 2 the plan is to store some things in a better way (i.e. on shelves) or throw some things away. Living in the city means bulk trash pickup each month so we have a couple weeks to make some decisions.
The basement has several roles to fill.
- Hold seasonal items– think Christmas ornaments but also the lawn mower. It also needs to keep us safe in tornado season and hold our emergency gear.
- Hold hobby items- We like to spend time outdoors but need a place indoors to store gear
- Hold household items- from extra toilet paper to paint cans, everything needs a home
- Be our construction center- We need workbenches, tool storage, and space to build
There’s several long-range plans we are going to have to do, like add more lighting and run a water line so we have a faucet in our backyard, but this is the “Clean the Basement” phase so here’s the plan.
Doesn’t that look nice and organized? It’s a multi-step process and while I’m sure I’m missing a few steps, here’s the current plan:
- Buy metal shelves for paint cans and other tools
- Clear out the back half of the basement to allow us to build a workbench
- Build saw cart
- Put all the tools where they belong
- Build tote shelves along the front half of the basement and relocated all totes
- Buy rug, pair with table and chairs for tornado shelter storm seating. Add emergency kits.
- Organize outdoor gear like shovels and lawn mower with some wall storage
- Buy a locker for all hiking/camping gear
- Buy/build potting bench for all outdoor gardening supplies
- Drywall staircase wall and build shelves for overstock groceries
Once phases 4 and 5 are finished I can see us splitting our time between the basement and projects on the second floor so hopefully this list will keep me on track. Organizing the basement might not be the most glamorous thing but it will definitely make my life easier.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has finally come to St. Louis! Wednesday night I was part of a preview event thanks to an invite from Yelp. The night before the big launch we got to sample some free ice cream.
My love for Jeni’s started when some friends in Ohio wouldn’t stop posting about it. Then one day at the mall I spied the cookbook and it was fate. I made salted caramel ice cream and milkiest chocolate ice cream and I was hooked. When Aaron, our lovely Yelp community manager, sent out a call for people to attend the big launch I had to jump.
The store is located right in the Central West End and per Jeni is one of their biggest storefronts. It’s so clean and open and soon it will be filled with people experiencing some of the best ice cream ever.
Jeni was on hand for the preview tonight and she is just as amazing in person. I was trying so hard not to fangirl too much but I got to hear some of her plans to bring St. Louis locally sourced ingredients to the ice cream. She is so warm and passionate about her food and she can just name off her chocolate supplier from memory because every product comes from a person, not just some corporate no name.
Speaking of, the flavors are amazing. There’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and so many toppings too. You can even have a sundae or a float. The staff there were so welcoming. If they even saw you eye a flavor they’d have a sample ready to go. When I tried the mango lassi and liked it they immediately told me I had to try the lemon frozen yogurt. The flavor tasted just like when you are a kid and at an amusement park in the summer and eating that fair food but in a wholesome way. Fantastic.
I picked up a lemon frozen yogurt + red raspberry sorbet for my husband. For myself, I went with a pistachio and honey + brown butter almond brittle with the salty caramel sauce. It was probably the best thing ever. St. Louis gets hot this summer and I will need a lot of Jeni’s to survive it.
Thursday night from 7 – 11 PM Jeni will be hosting the grand opening. Ice cream is free for those four hours. Get down there early and enjoy!
I can’t believe it is already June. Maybe that has to do with the fact that I had to sleep with an extra blanket on the bed last night and I’m in long sleeves today. Either way, here’s some of what I was up to off-the-blog last month:
- Imagine my surprise when my brother told me that we were making my mom crab legs for Mother’s Day. My brother is not always so prepared so I was taken aback. I decided to run with the theme and make a low country boil for mom.
- When I moved to the new neighborhood, I had no idea I lived near a martini bar. Do you know how nice it is to be able to walk home after a couple drinks?
- The husband and I went to the South Grand Dine Around. You get passes to enjoy an appetizer, a main course, a drink, a dessert, and another small taste from restaurants representing all sorts of nationalities.
- This was a month for finales. The Mad Men finale wasn’t quite what I expected but the final few episodes really wrapped up the show. I also finally watched The Wire finale. Talk about a heartbreaking show. Both shows had some of the best episodes of TV that I have ever seen.
- I rented a movie in person for the first time in over 10 years. Can you believe it? I was a Netflix subscriber years ago when they still sent you discs for that low rate and since then I have always waited for movies to just make their way to cable. I finally decided to try Redbox and now I’m wondering why I waited so long.
- I’m so disappointed I can’t make the Postmodern Jukebox show this week at The Pageant, especially after seeing this video of their cover of Bad Romance. Oh, the tap dancing!
- I finally got some furniture on the 2nd story balcony. It’s not much yet but at least I can go outside. My big plans involve rugs, all the flowers it can fit, and a potting bench.
- The third story deck is now becoming urgent. I only have a few chairs left from the last owners and no place to put all the people I’d like.
- The biggest reason work isn’t done? The basement! We left our workbench behind at the last house, our current basement is full of our stuff and leftovers from the old owners and it needs an intervention. We’re drawing up plans for shelves and workbenches this week so maybe we can finally start building.
On the Web
- Cards you might actually want to receive if you have cancer. It might sound a little morbid but take it from this cancer survivor- cancer is a lonely time and the cards out there are awkward. Every little bit helps.
- I normally hate the “lessons learned” posts that come with graduation season but this one may be the most accurate.
- My new favorite instagram account.
- I joined a community garden this month. I’m the youngest by about 20-30 years with the exception of my husband. Our first mission: rebuild some damaged rain barrel bases.
- I became a Yelp Elite member and just attended my first event. My next big event is this week and I can’t wait to share it with you.
- My workplace is having this healthy living program this summer. Last month’s big goal was to increase our steps. This month’s big goal is to eat more veggies. Next month’s big goal is to get more sleep. Naturally I’ve injured my feet and just had my first podiatrist appointment. The good news is that I can still keep walking but the bad news is I need to wear ugly shoes. Such is life.
When I set my 30before30 goal of taking a class, I really thought I’d end up in a cooking class or maybe as a stretch I’d be in a stained glass class on Main Street St. Charles. Imagine my surprise when I ended up in a painting class. I haven’t painted anything since I was 10. But there’s no better time than the present.
Thanks to Yelp for hosting this event along with Pinot’s Palette. Certain photos are courtesy of Yelp/Pinot’s Palette.
When I moved in with my husband, I knew our first house wasn’t a forever home. When he’d bought it a few years earlier and before we attacked it with sledgehammers, we thought 3-5 years was the magic number on how long we’d be living there. By the time I moved out it had been over 7 years. In 2013 we started talking about how we should do some home improvements based on selling the home and no longer what we wanted to live in the home. We made a few changes with paint colors, adding trim in key places, the kinds of stuff that don’t make for fun and exciting blog posts. In early 2014 I actually started going through basement totes and making the save/trash decision. I’d been living in a house full of totes that had never been opened. It was depressing. It also helped me make a wish list for my next big house. Then came a job change and the momentum was on.
My goal was originally to have the house ready for market by spring 2015 and instead I was home shopping a year earlier than planned. We toured our first home on March 30 and moved in December 16. Here’s how our home buying journey went.
My husband and I started by making wish lists. We had several differences but here’s the things we agreed on:
- More than 1 bathroom (yes, we lived with 1 bathroom for over 7 years)
- Off-street covered parking
- Historic Home
- Close to the city
- Close to work
- Outdoor space for the dog
- Near a park
- Workspaces for each of us (craft space for me, woodshop for him, office for both)
It sounded so easy. I pulled up a map, located Targets, grocery stores, parks, and our workplaces and plotted out some ideal neighborhoods. Most people don’t realize that “Saint Louis” can refer to St. Louis City or St. Louis County. Locals will tell you they are beyond different while out-of-towners hear it and think that the entire metro area is a place they’ll be murdered in. Even our family and friends have been confused. We did look at the county in places like Clayton, University City, Maplewood but none of them felt right. People had unrealistic expectations of selling prices in these areas so we moved on.
We kept attending 5-10 Open Houses a weekend. After some more searches and missteps we narrowed our home search to 7 neighborhoods – Skinker DeBaliviere, Central West End, Shaw, Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, Compton Heights, or Lafayette Park. Each neighborhood bordered either Forest Park, Tower Grove Park, or Lafayette Park, offered historic homes, had crime rates we were comfortable with, and had good access to highways or roads that would get us to work with minimal traffic. By Mother’s Day, it was time to call in an agent. Luckily it was as easy as a phone call to my dad.
My dad didn’t play. He set us up with listing after listing, getting a feel for what we were looking for beyond location. Did we want beautiful woodwork and a nice patio if it put one of us without a garage and on the very edge of our neighborhood? We couldn’t afford houses on a rich tree-lined parkway next to Missouri Botanical Gardens but what if we fixed up a foreclosure below our price point? What if only part of the house was finished and we couldn’t live in the whole house for months until we rehabbed it? Houses got nicknames “The Dolphin Tub House”, “Yellow Highlighter House”, “First Flad”, “Second Flad”, “Love Pad Flad”. You start to see it all. These were hard choices. The stress was killer. Week after week we looked, week after week I commuted 2-3 hours a day.
We finally decided on a home to put an offer on at the end of July. And then it disappeared from the market. My dad did the agent thing and got the listing agent to put it back on telling the buyers not to give up hope of a sell. “The ‘V’ House” we called it. By August 3 we submitted an offer. Naturally it wasn’t meant to be; the sellers didn’t want to go any lower and we were convinced it wasn’t worth any higher. They pulled it again, we walked away. We flirted with 2 other homes pretty seriously but the agents were clear there wasn’t room to negotiate. We’d seen the market analysis and didn’t play the game with them. We found another home we loved and before we got in the door it sold. We were able to walk through it and that made it even tougher. It was a second loss. Mid-October we finally made an offer on another house, “The ‘B’ House”, and again we couldn’t meet in the middle. We were nearing the end of the selling season. For 2 weeks we didn’t see any homes enter the market. The stress of my commute and house hunting was making me ill. I felt like I was trapped in limbo and doomed by my own unwillingness to pay more than a house was worth.
And then “The ‘V’ House” came back on the market. At a lower price. And “The ‘B’ House’s seller suddenly wanted to play ball again. We went all in and made one more very final but very competitive offer on “The ‘V’ House” and they accepted. It was the first week of November. Closing was set for 10 days before Christmas. I think of it as a Christmas miracle. At some point I’ll cover some logistics of moving with you and some lessons I learned there as well as a profile of our new neighborhood – Tower Grove East.
The lesson I learned in the home buying search is not to let your desperation make a decision you aren’t okay with. We seriously considered 5 homes and we believed 4 of those were drastically overpriced. We had been through over 100 homes in St. Louis (not an exaggeration) and felt confident we knew what added and subtracted value. Those homes we didn’t buy? All 3 of them ended up selling within $2000 of what we’d offered or discussed offering with the agent. In the moment I was actually willing to lower my standards and open my wallet more and now I know I was right to stay the course. It’s hard to be patient and it’s hard to keep going but it can be worth it. I love what we waited so long for.
I finally made it to my first Food Truck Friday here at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis. I’ve had this on my STL Bucket List forever but in my past life it would have taken me so long to drive here that all the food would have sold out. Luckily, the wait was worth it. This month Sauce Magazine had 25 total trucks, up from the years before so no one should go hungry.
There are so many food options from so many city neighborhoods. You have pasta, pizza and sandwiches from The Hill, healthy eats from Cherokee Street, Pie from Maplewood, vegan and Filipino from Grand, even the county is represented. There are beer trucks, smoothie and coffee trucks, dessert trucks, and of course food trucks.
Here’s some good tips if you’re going to your first Food Truck Friday
- Get there early. The lines get long and it’s totally worth it to sneak out early and get ahead of the crowds, especially if you want Seoul Taco or Gorilla Street Food. Consider splitting up with your group and sending someone to each line to grab food or break into smaller groups. You can all share dishes and have a regular food supply.
- Have cash on hand. Most places accept credit or square and some even have an ATM on board but always come prepared.
- Bring some gear with you. There were times I wish I had some extra napkins or plasticware to make splitting a dish easier. And while there was plenty of beer and soda to be had, I’m glad I brought some water bottles. If I had a picnic blanket and some wine I bet I would have had an even better time.
- Dress for the weather. It had just finished raining and I get that everyone wanted to look cute but you don’t want to wear heels in the mud and this is STL, not Coachella.
- Be smart with your car. Look at the map and avoid the thought that you can park right next to a truck. Ain’t gonna happen and you’ll spend more time in your car watching people eat than actually eating. There’s plenty of room along Magnola and Arsenal. If you’re local, why not walk? I usually walk 4 or so miles on Friday and I’m more than willing to do that for food. (And hey, if the organizers could arrange for more bike racks I’d love that too!)
Steak Louie had this amazing Philly Cheesesteak with strip steak and cheese and peppers. It was a great choice and worth the wait. I hesitated on the fries but decided to limit my stops tonight by grabbing more food at the first stop. The east coast seasoning and cheese sauce were amazing.
And then there’s the cupcakes.
I of course had to try the red velvet and it was pretty good. But the night’s surprise winner was the 4 Hands Chocolate Milkshake cupcake. It’s made with 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout and has the taste of malted milk balls.
There’s just something wonderful about seeing people come together. My husband remarked that it all reminded him of our rural church picnic and I realized he was right; with people, food, pets, strollers, young and old, it felt like a community.
It’s already May so here’s a recap of what I was up to in April.
- April was a great month for me. I made and stuck to a meal plan for every day of the month. Even the eat out days were planned and scheduled on a google calendar. Here are some pictures of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Best recipe of the month – Skinnytaste’s Naked Salmon Burgers. I wasn’t sure I’d like them (or if the husband would) but we both loved them!
- Broadway Oyster Bar is my featured restaurant of the month. Where else can you eat gator tacos and lobster po’ boys this good in STL?
- We’ve been trying to enjoy our neighborhood more. On Saturdays we often find ourselves taking long walks, grabbing lunch at the neighborhood hot dog stand, and dinner along South Grand (featuring more countries than Epcot!) and maybe even ice cream or gelato.
- I went to see Susanna Kearsley at a book signing. She was such an engaging speaker and she planted some Easter eggs for those of us who hadn’t read the book yet but didn’t want to be spoiled.
- Hockey for St. Louis was a bust yet again so I’ve fully moved on to baseball. I still haven’t seen home run fireworks from my deck because I keep forgetting to take my eyes off the game!
- We got some plants on the decks. I even won a plant at work for Earth Day so that’s in the ground too.
- We’ve been trying to keep everything out of the house whether it is rain (no leaks yet!) or squirrels. I really wish other people had been so dedicated to the cause.
- We’ve ordered a desk! It won’t be here for quite a while since it is being handcrafted but it promises to be fabulous.
On the Web
- I loved following along with Ana White’s Paver Planters. I have to build some of my own!
- The Bloggess has a fantastic take on being proud and happy and how often we’re far too self-depricating. Promise yourself not to tear yourself down.
- Spending money on experiences and not things is pretty much my mantra. This year with a new home and a diminished savings account it’s hard to take the time to do this.
- I was taken aback at how my current job celebrates its employees. We had a staff appreciation week and at times it was so overwhelming that I actually cried. Some days I feel like my current job is a bit of a disappointment because I’m not “making the world a better place” but I’m starting to see that I am making a difference in the lives of those I’m around and that’s enough for now.
- I have some lovely friends and I don’t get to see them all often enough. Happily April included a girls night out once again!
- It is really easy to allow bad habits and influences into our lives. I’m beyond guilty of hate-reading blogs or keeping a “trainwreck” as a facebook friend just to gossip. I can’t keep that up. I unfriended people who I have nothing in common with anymore and pulled some blogs off my ereader. I hope you will do the same for me if you feel the need to keep abreast of my life for gossip and not sharing in my life.
I mentioned before that I was looking for a way to turn my little dining area into some sort of drink bar. In February I was expecting some friends over for Galentine’s Day Brunch so it was a perfect time to set up the drink area.
I bought an older model Keurig for the area and stocked up on a few K-cups. In winter I’m definitely more of a hot coffee and cocoa drinker so I wanted to have some warm options.
I bought some cute mini spoons and a creamer from World Market, something to hold sweeteners from Target, a sugar dispenser from even before my time, a mason jar leftover from a batch of salsa, a sweets jar from Pier 1 and corralled it all on a tray from Ikea.
In the cabinets up above I keep some of the good stuff. You can see my Anthropologie mugs (gold available around Christmas), my every day mugs, some travel mugs, and a much nicer tea set for company. I have a few more sets still packed up. I also keep some tea and cocoa up here (and more cocoa in the cookie jar).
Kcups go in the drawer now that I have some handles on them. It makes it so much easier to open!
I also wanted to share a bit of my themed party for Galentine’s Day that I had. Galentine’s is a beloved day in the world of Parks & Rec and I wanted to honor it and some of my closest friends. The girls drove all the way across the river to come see my new house, drink some of that coffee/tea/cocoa or one of the endless mimosa combinations, and eat some skillet potatoes, a pancake bar, mini quiches, and croissants.
I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could so I only took some photos before and none during. Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and enjoy the moment! (And the mimosas)
I’m hoping that these posts can fill in the gap on what keeps me busy when I’m not blogging. There’s so many months of gaps to fill and such little time so here’s a way I can try to live in real time.
- This month I had some great meals at Scottish Arms (amazing fish & chips) and Rooster. Highly recommend both.
- Best recipe of the month- chicken shawarma. I can’t deny my love of this dish.
- My freezer is still empty from the move. I’ve finally been able to catch up on meats but I’m still behind on all the other things a good freezer has. What are your favorite freezer meals? I feel like now is the time to try something new.
- Anyone else love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I find myself quoting it with my husband all the time now. “It’s a miracle!” “I love you, don’t get lice!” It’s great for 30 Rock fans or people who love bright colors and humor.
- I mentioned a while back how obsessed I was with Serial. Now I’m catching up on The Wire only a decade or so late. (Free for Amazon Prime members)
- I made it to Kinky Boots at the Fox Theatre and found it charming and entertaining.
- It took me a month but I finally got a rug I ordered back in February from Ballard Designs.
- The kitchen cabinets on all levels have their pulls. I should have a post on that soon. If you don’t have hardware on your cabinets yet, get on that!
- Ikea doesn’t open in St. Louis till later in the year so I had to buy some things online. Yesterday I bought some supplies at Home Depot so I can fill some rooms with organization.
On the Web
- My husband showed me these beer cap maps and now I’m convinced I have to get one.
- I’m in a love/hate relationship with the Gawker network but I love Millihelen. There’s talk of fashion and beauty but in relationship to feminism, what we decide femininity is, and cultural differences. Be sure to check out the mall makeovers from around the world.
- Need to bring a dessert for Easter? Mix it up with these spring floral cupcakes. Or just bring me a carrot cake. I’m flexible.
- I have a job in the midst of the St. Louis innovation community. Sometimes it is a bit of a man’s world. I can sometimes go almost a week without seeing another woman in my workspace. Even when you think we’re making progress sometimes the truth is right in front of our eyes.
- I’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood. Can I just say how crazy it is that I’ve never really lived anywhere with sidewalks before? I’m obsessed. I’m also trying to walk more because somehow I’ve gotten plantar fasciitis from the aforementioned workplace. Only me!
- My brother’s girlfriend was in town so we all visited the St. Louis Zoo earlier this month. It had been years since I’d been and it couldn’t have been a nicer day.