A Few of My Favorite (Baked) Things

I’m still getting the hang of baking–in that, I can follow a recipe pretty well, but haven’t been brave enough to branch out on my own and try crazy inventions yet (unless you count adding cranberries and pecans to French bread). But I have ventured far enough down my Baking Bucket List to have a few favorites…

Favorite to photograph: Challah

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The braided design and glossy, egg-wash finish makes this one a no-brainer. Definitely the most Instagrammable of my baked goods, even when it’s a little wonky or lop-sided. I’ve tried different styles–a spiral and a braided coil–but the 6-strand, braided log is my favorite.

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Favorite to bake: French Bread

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It’s a pretty straight-forward recipe, and I love the way the entire apartment smells like bread. I bake it in my beautiful Le Cruset Dutch (French?) oven, and it leaves us a versatile bread that’s tasty morning, noon, and night.

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Favorite to eat: Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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What’s better than red wine or chocolate? Combining them into a decadent cake topped with a layer of dark chocolate ganache (or cream cheese frosting, your choice!). This photo is of a similar recipe for chocolate sour cream cake, which is nearly as delish.

Favorite surprise/transformation: Chocolate Babka

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I just had to include this one because it looks absolutely terrifying before going into the oven, but it comes out completely gorgeous and so scrumptious. There’s definitely an ugly-duckling-metaphor in here somewhere. 😉

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I plan on sharing my recipes for each of these (and more!) soon–is there one in particular you’d like to see first? What’s your favorite baked good, to bake and/or eat? Let me know in the comments!

 

2019 Reading Challenge: Wrapped!

Holy crap you guys, I just found this lovely little post sitting in my drafts as I went to write my first 2020 Reading Challenge post. SMH! Welp, enjoy this super better-late-than-never recap, and look forward to hearing my first 10 books of 2020, coming soon!

In 2019 I set a goal of reading 40 new books, and ended up reading 64! Here’s the final list:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa
  21. The Firethorn Crown– Lea Doué 
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson
  31. Mirage – Somaiya Daud
  32. Queen of Ruin – Tracy Banghart
  33. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Van Edwards
  34. Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
  35. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler
  36. The Ladies’ Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzie Lee
  37. The Lost Girls – Heather Young
  38. Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan
  39. Mistress of the Ritz – Melanie Benjamin
  40. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver
  41. Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller
  42. Unravel Me – Tahereh Mafi (Once I started on her sequel to Shatter Me, I couldn’t stop. I’m 1000% obsessed with her stories)
  43. Ignite Me
  44. Restore Me
  45. Defy Me
  46. The Huntress – Kate Quinn
  47. Vicious (Villians) – V.E. Schwab
  48. Rooms – Lauren Oliver
  49. Duels & Deceptions – Cindy Anstey
  50. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson
  51. Red, White, & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
  52. A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi (My favorite of the books I read in 2019)
  53. Matchmaking for Beginners – Maddie Dawson
  54. Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys
  55. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena
  56. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  57. The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi
  58. Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson
  59. The Witch Elm – Tana French
  60. We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal
  61. The Vanishing Stair – Maureen Johnson
  62. One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus
  63. Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver
  64. Sawkill Girls – Claire Legend

If I can only recommend one book from this long list, it’s A Very Large Expanse of Sea. It follows a teenage Muslim girl in the wake of 9/11. It’s nuanced and rich and I sobbed, laughed, and was completely engrossed–I read it in about two days, sneaking open my kindle app at work and cooking dinner with one eye glued to Shirin’s story.

One of Us is Lying is an excellent murder-mystery-meets-the-Breakfast-Club. I love a good unreliable narrator, and the fact that there are 4 different points of view telling the reader about a death only they witnessed (and are, therefore, the only suspected murderers) keeps things very interesting.

Matchmaking for Beginners surprised me the most. It was available for free through Amazon Prime, and I’m not really sure what led me to open it–maybe the pale blue cover and a desire for something lighthearted. This book definitely delivered, while also having a thread of deep emotions throughout.

I really enjoyed expanding out of my YA-comfort-zone and reading books in so many different genres. Do you recognize any books on my list as favorites of yours? Have any recommendations for 2020? I’m already building my “to-be-read” list–there are so many great stories out there!

Baking Bucket List

In case you were wondering, in no particular order, and by no means complete, here is a list of the items I plan to try my hand at in my lifetime:

  • Challah
  • Meringue Cookies
  • Pavlova
  • Macarons
  • Croissants
  • Rugelach
  • Stroopwafel
  • Bagels
  • Ciabatta
  • Biscotti
  • White/Sandwich Bread
  • French Bread
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Chocolate Babka
  • Rainbow Cookies
  • Buche de Noel (Yule Log)
  • Stollen
  • Calzones/Pizza
  • Lucia Buns
  • Swedish Tea Ring
  • Honey Buns

It seems like each episode of the Great British Baking Show inspires another addition to the list, and with this newfound hobby, I’ve started checking out more baking blogs for tips (and even more inspiration). Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me try–I’m game to post about all my baking triumphs and failures!

Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

2019 Reading Challenge: 10 to Go!

I’ve hit 30 books read, with 5 1/2 months left to go in 2019. I think it’s safe to make a stretch-goal of 60 books. Especially since I’ve pre-ordered a few books by authors I love, and I *just* downloaded the Libby app (which gives me access to e-books through libraries) so I don’t need to be as choosy about which books get my dollars.

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa

  21. The Firethorn Crown – Lea Doué (12 sisters become cursed to dance each night in an enchanted garden until the eldest agrees to release the cursed prince by marrying him–and forfeiting her own crown, and chance at happiness)
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi (SO GOOD. A girl who can kill with merely a touch is kidnapped to become a weapon, but escapes with a boy she remembers from her childhood. The villain is really well written, and the language is poetic without being too flowery/overdone)
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White (what if Victor Frankenstein had a playmate who tried to temper his more sociopathic tendencies?)
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody (the sequel to Ace of Shades)
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis (I thought Girl, Wash Your Face was good, but this one was even more empowering for me. Highly recommend!)
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman (plops Alexander the great into a fantasy world)
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes (A detective whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered now works a very similar case for a high-profile judge and a family with a lot to hide…)
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty (I was expecting an And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie type murder-mystery, but this took me by surprise. Nine people check into a health retreat for various reasons, only to find out things are not what they seem)
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy (my gifted book from this post, a fantastic story about loss and redemption and finding a path forward beyond vengeance)
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson (super sexy male MC and badass-yet-relatable female MC, a queen’s soldier is sent to find a traitor amongst an outlaw family’s kingdom, but a joint kidnapping throws her together with the leader of the outlaws, joined in their goal to survive and maintain order and peace)

 

Any suggestions for the last 10 books to round out my 2019 reading list? Have you read any of the same books? I’d love to hear what you thought!

Exciting News!

I’ve launched my writing website! 🙂 I started it as a blog a while ago when I was *very* excited about a *very* different story, but didn’t do much with it and turned my (admittedly sporadic) attention here instead. I’m hoping to be much better at keeping up the writing site with regular postings (I’m aiming for once a week, we’ll see how it goes) and plan to shift this site away from documenting writing-related updates (since I need *something* for that other site 😉 ). That being said, my first big “share” on the site is a piece of flash fiction from the world of Blood and Water, the book I’ve been working on all year. It’s set well before the actual story takes place, but gives a glimpse into my main character (Solvi)’s childhood.

If you feel like checking it out, it’ll drop *today* at annieatkinstories.com. I plan to share a few more “side stories” to drum up some interest, so if you do check them out, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you think–good or bad! I’m very curious to see if the story works without knowing any of the characters yet…everyone who’s read them so far already knows the characters almost as well as I do. 🙂 I’ll also share things like more writing playlists, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more random thoughts on writing to share as well.

36 Hours in St. Louis

Hey everyone! This post has been a long time coming–both in that I’ve fallen behind in my secret commitment to get a couple posts out each week, and in terms of the topic: St. Louis!

My in-laws sent us an article recently about where to go during a 36-hour trip to St. Louis. It was *full* of tourist-traps, pricey restaurants, and odd recommendations. It really didn’t capture my St. Louis at all. So I figured, why not write my own?

Why haven’t I written this yet??

So, thirty-six hours is a little tough. There’s *so much* to potentially do, and a day and a half barely cuts it. You’ll have to skip the ballgame–though a 48+ hour trip during baseball season has to include a trip to Ballpark Village, which is just as fun as being in the stadium!

We’ll start with hotels. It obviously depends on price-point and location, but unless you have a legitimate reason for being *Downtown*, don’t stay there. If you’re a Four Seasons type, maybe opt for the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton instead, since there’s more going on in Clayton. If you want to be in “the city,” I’d recommend the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End. It’s right across from Forest Park, walkable to a lot of great bars/restaurants, and has a really nice pool. Dogtown is another fun neighborhood to look at if you want to be close to a lot. Finally, the Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop is a really funky hotel with a great rooftop bar.

When you get in Friday evening, you’ll be hungry, so I’ve got a few excellent dinner options depending on price point, vibe, and your level of patience.

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If you don’t mind potentially waiting for a table and fighting a crowd, Mission Taco is a hip, fun spot for some excellent tacos and margaritas. I’m partial to the one in Central West End, but I’ve had a great time at the one in Delmar, too. They’ve got a few more locations, all of which I’m sure are fantastic. I *love* the battered fish taco, the hot chicken taco, and the soft taco (which has ground Impossible burger “meat”, and is seriously SO delish). The tacos are pretty small, I usually get 3 or 4 so definitely be prepared to mix and match if you’re going the taco route (PS if you want to save this for a late-night snack, they have $2 tequila and tacos after 10pm). My husband loves the brah-rito, which has like French fries and stuff in it. Their house margarita is excellent, but they’ve got an extensive cocktail menu and some great local beers on tap.

Tacos not your thing? Prefer a nice, quiet sit-down meal and generous portions of Italian cuisine? Go ahead and make a reservation at Charlie Gitto’s. Located in the Italian neighborhood (the Hill), it’s one of our favorite date-night spots. The menu is a little pricey compared to most other spots on this list, but even saying that, the prices aren’t outrageous by any means. The chicken parm is my go-to, but really all their food is solid.

Want some low-key pub food? Dressel’s is the spot! You might recognize the name from my husband’s favorite burgers of St. Louis post–this is the burger he raved about to his (fellow-burger-loving) father. Dressel’s is a Welsh pub that feels like you’ve crossed the Atlantic when you step inside, and everything on their menu is fresh and yummy. The fish and chips portion is HUGE. I am *obsessed* with the grilled cheese and tomato soup. Their veggie burger is also really great. They have a rotating tap of local beers and some really fun cocktails, and the staff is so friendly.

Saturday can be as packed or as low-key as you’d like it to be.

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You’ve arrived in the Gateway to the Midwest, so if there’s one *tourist* thing to do, check out the Gateway Arch! The Arch grounds were recently redone, so there’s a really nice grassy area beneath it, as well as the museum. If you want to go up in the Arch for stunning views, you do need to book this in advance.

If you book your Arch trip early enough, you could swing by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a *free* tour of the St. Louis landmark–complete with a tasting of the freshest Budweiser/Bud Light you’ll ever drink, as well as a free 16oz pour at the completion of the tour. Depending on the time of year, you might even get to see the Clydesdales! These tours can fill up, so I’d recommend trying to go on the earlier side (tours start anywhere from 9am to 11am depending on the time of year–we start early in the Lou!).

Don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten about lunch! I’ve got not one but two excellent sandwich options for you: Blues City Deli in Benton Park or Gramophone in the Grove. I’m a big fan of the Mike’s Spicy Beef n Cheddar at Blues City, and the hubs loves the Alcatraz at Gramophone, but both spots have a great selection of interesting combinations to choose from. Be prepared to stand in line (out the door) at Blues City, but it does move fast. I will add a note around the locations: both are surrounded by areas that feel a little run-down, but don’t be daunted! The Grove is a really trendy spot that’s well-traveled during the day (and has a fun nightlife, but it can get a little dicier in the early-morning hours), and Blues City is in more of a residential area. A final note about Gramophone: if you’re in the Grove already, you might as well swing by U.R.B. (Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery) to do a $1 sample survey–you get three good-sized samples of beers they’re testing out, and just have to fill out a survey about the notes/aromas/tastes that are present for you, and how likely you’d be to order a full pour. They also have pretty delish pizza if you prefer that to sandwiches! If burgers are more your thing, Mac’s Local Eats is *the* place. It’s been featured on the Travel channel, and the line can wrap around the bar, but again, it generally moves fairly quickly (though they will take the time to explain their menu in detail to every newcomer). If Mac himself is there, he usually buys a bucket of Busch beers for those waiting in line to enjoy. They’re all smash-burgers, so if you like a thick, juicy, red burger, Dressel’s is your spot. If you like thin, juicy patties smothered in cheese, Mac’s is everything. (It’s my favorite, I love the double classic with everything. The double pimento burger and the dirty sancho have received rave reviews from friends and loved ones as well). Insider tip: Mac’s is located *inside* Tamm Avenue Bar and Grill–other than a small sidewalk sign, it’s pretty well hidden if you’re not in the know. Head inside and follow the bar around to the window in the kitchen, where Mac or one of his team will take your order and get you squared away. There’s also a great (dog-friendly!) patio and an arcade in the back!

Ok, sorry about all that–you guys know I love food, right?–back to the “things to do”. If you want a quieter day, or just a break from adventure for the afternoon, head over to Forest Park and just wander the paths. We’re so fortunate to live across the street from one end of the park, and it’s one of our favorite places to just enjoy being outside. There are a lot of grassy areas or benches to just sit and read or contemplate life. Forest Park also has two golf courses, the St. Louis Zoo, and St. Louis Art Museum. Both are free admission, both are fun–though the Zoo is often *very* crowded. Art Hill itself is lovely, the Art Museum standing on a hill overlooking the Grand Basin (Instagram-worthy photo op!). If you’ve got kiddos to entertain (or feel like being a kid yourself), City Museum downtown is SO fun! It’s the only place on the list with an admission fee (other than the Arch tour), but with those $12 you get to climb through caverns, slide down a 10 story slide, and/or navigate a wire cage up to a suspended airplane.

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Any of the restaurants I’ve already listed would make great dinner options, too. If you’ve got a car and want to explore into the county, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in Rock Hill has great pasta, interesting pizza combinations, and fun cocktails. Alternatively, Stone Turtle in Dogtown is a nice, cozy spot for good drinks and typical American fare (it might sound odd, but I also had some fantastic crab cakes there once). Speaking of cocktails, if you love a good craft cocktail you have to check out Taste in the Central West End. They have three pages of classic cocktails to choose from, plus a rotating menu of seasonal inventions. Their french fries are also *amazing*.

I didn’t go into the *many* brewery options, but if you enjoy beer, you’ve come to the right city! I’ve posted about the key ones I’ve enjoyed in more detail, but I’d definitely recommend checking out 4 Hands, Urban Chestnut, 2nd Shift, Alpha, and/or Rockwell Beer Co.

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Sunday morning before you leave, get (early) brunch at Cafe Osage. They can get pretty busy, but it is worth the wait. The french toast is my favorite, hubs loves the pancakes, but seriously everything on the menu is great. One note, the scrambled eggs do come pretty runny so you have to ask for them to be cooked firm if that’s your preference. It’s located within Bowood Farms nurseryso you can enjoy the plants and cute trinkets while you wait for a table. They’ve also got a cat who stands sentry near the door.

As you can see, I had a really hard time paring down all the places I love in St. Louis to fit into this post. If you take nothing else away from this exceptionally long rambling, know that St. Louis has something for everyone!

The OTHER Lou: Our Louisville Adventure

Maybe I’m being obnoxious by referring to Louisville, KY as the other Lou. I don’t remember my US history all that well (sorry, Mr. Jones!) but I’m fairly certain Louisville came before St. Louis, at least in terms of US Cities. (Ok, because I love history and hate being wrong, I had to turn to the ol’Google. Turns out Louisville was chartered in 1780, while the settlement of St. Louis was established in 1764 BUT [and here’s where that history lesson paid off] didn’t become a US city until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Thanks TJ!*)

Anyhoo, the hubs and I took advantage of the less-than-4-hour-drive for a long weekend mini-vacay (side note: I don’t know why I have to so aggressively defend the fact that Louisville is 4 hours from St. Louis. Several people have tried to dispute me on this *after* I’ve made the damn trip!). It was such a blast, despite the weather being pretty frigid. As my husband put it: we didn’t do a lot but we saw a lot.

We stayed at the 21C Museum Hotel which was awesome–there was a fun video wall in the elevator lobby, my brother in sculpture form near the entrance, and we were able to get drinks at the hotel bar and wander through the exhibits–which makes weird art SO MUCH more enjoyable. We giggled a lot, which is one of my favorite things to do with my husband.

Our hotel was right next to the Louisville Slugger museum. I come from a family of baseball fans (like, my mom’s dad built a baseball field into their farm when she was a kid). We wandered the gift shop and touched all the different bats and read the wall of plaques bearing the names of baseball greats and their favorite Louisville Slugger bat number. We did not tour the actual museum, but I got a picture of the giant bat out front.

We also made the short trip to Churchill Downs. It was really cool seeing the racetrack from the highway (and through the slats in the fence). We got some pics with the horse statue out front, and entered the lobby of the museum…in the middle of a feral pack of elementary school kids on a field trip. No thank you, we agreed to save the inside of Churchill Downs for another day.

We checked out several different neighborhoods. Our museum was on Main Street, which featured a lot of distilleries and restaurants and shops. It was an easy/long walk to NuLu, a hip neighborhood with funky antique shops, more distilleries and breweries, and some tasty food spots. We also walked through 4th Street Live, which was bumping with the Guy Fieris of the world. We made a few trips to Bardstown Road/the Original Highlands, which I liked a lot. It had a lower-key vibe that reminded me of some of my favorite St. Louis neighborhoods.

Ok, now for the good stuff, the real reason a person checks out Louisville (apart from maybe horses): the bourbon! I’ve enjoyed a few whiskey drinks on occasion before this trip, but had next to no knowledge about the nuances of whiskeys/bourbons/ryes. Now, I can say I really like bourbon. I like rye whiskey, too. I really like Old Fashioneds.

So first stop for us was Evan Williams, partly because it’s one of the best known names, partly because it was only about a block from the hotel, mostly (for me, at least) because he was Louisville’s first distiller! I wish I could have learned more history–I got that from a street placard–but we did not do the tour. We just hopped on the elevator with another group and slipped into the bar for the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had. We also got to keep commemorative Evan Williams bourbon glasses. Score!

We also wandered far enough down “Whiskey Row” to find Peerless–a younger distillery (closed before prohibition but recently reopened)–where we did an $8 whiskey tasting. 4 whiskeys plus a commemorative glass and a dee-licious piece of chocolate–I was obsessed with this place. Bourbon is aged for 4 years, so theirs won’t be ready until this summer–we had their rye whiskey instead. I learned how the barrel soaks its own flavor into each batch, and theirs had such unique flavors that most of their bottles are single-barrel (meaning–duh–only from 1 barrel) rather than small batch (combining several barrels). They also keep it cask-strength–this got a little too chemistry-heavy for me to remember fully considering the whiskey-fog my brain was in, but something about letting the alcohol evaporate rather than diluting it with water so it gets to the legal ABV without diluting the flavors (maybe?). We bought a bottle of their rye (as well as some of those whiskey-infused chocolates).

The tour we booked ahead of time was at Angel’s Envy. That was a lot of fun–the most memorable part for me was when we dunked our fingers in a bottle of basically everclear. He had us smack those fingers on the palm of our other hand, then smell it (straight ethanol). Then we rubbed our hands together a couple times and smelled it. Now, I can’t remember the order, but one time it smelled like corn, another grains, and after more rubbing, fresh-baked bread. It was a really cool “science experiment” to show how adding heat changes it.

A couple other notable experiences: my favorite bourbon drink was probably the bourbon slushy at Feast BBQ. There was a terrify bathroom at galaxie bar–painted black and lit only by black light, glow-in-the-dark paint, and a tv set on static (can you say flashbacks to the first/only 15 min I watched of The Ring??). I really loved how the air smelled of peat, similar to the hops-smell around AB in Soulard.

It was a lot of fun, a really cute city with a surprising amount to do. We’ll definitely be back for more bourbon–and maybe a horse race!

 

*TJ is of course Thomas Jefferson, hands down most popular president in Missouri, if the number of references to Jefferson (including the capital) are any indication.

My Husband Loves His Parents so Much it’s Both Adorable and Maddening

Guys, he just invited them along on our mini spring break trip. We’re stuck in the middle of a crazy midwest winter, so we’ve been discussing a long weekend somewhere warm and new and easily accessible given our central location in St. Louis (think: Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Santa Fe…)

But we are both beach people, and it only took one mention of palm trees and warm sands for us to agree we’d love a beach trip if we could swing one. This led to me suggesting places like the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, and him to look into Bermuda–a locale where he made many a happy childhood memory.

A quick Google search showed reasonable prices–too reasonable. He HAD to call his parents to find out if the places they’d splurge on might have gone downhill. One conversation with his father later, and I’m pretty sure we’re all going to do a long weekend in Bermuda in March to take advantage of the great off-season pricing.

To reiterate: my husband just invited his parents on our romantic getaway. Fortunately for him (and my sanity) I think it’s absolutely adorable that he and his dad are such good buddies they discussed a whole fun adventure before remembering that their wives might want to tag along.

Rambling Recommendations: The Adventure Zone–Here There Be Gerblins

First and foremost: I wanted to change the name of these posts because let’s be honest, I don’t write very good, balanced “reviews.” I’m only telling you about books I recommend, so let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? It does make for an obnoxiously long title, which I’m beginning to think will be a theme this year. 2019: Because Sometimes You Don’t Need to Make the Long Story Short.

Yup, that feels right.

Anyhoo… on to the recommendation!

Okay, second confession: this is more a recommendation of a podcast than the actual book. Partially because I’ve always felt “meh” about graphic novels and “The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins” did not really shove me headfirst into a love of them. Don’t get me wrong, the book was thoroughly enjoyable. I just love the podcast adventures of Magnus, Merle, and Taako so much more.

If you’re looking for a relatively quick, fun, humorous read, definitely check out this book! IF you’re interested in hearing more about this podcast, you’re in luck, because as we’ve established, this year is all about rambling on and on…

The Adventure Zone podcast began as three brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin) introduced their father to the wonderful world of Dungeons and Dragons. Considering the nerd-level of my beloved Wildcards, I’m a little shocked this was *my* introduction to D&D as well. Side note about that link: I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but you’re gonna want to scroll to the bottom of the page and click “last” to start this bad boy from the very beginning. Partially because that’s how stories work–not starting in the middle or skipping to the end like some monster (Mom)–and partially because they’ve long since moved on to other role-playing games, so you won’t get a taste of that good, good D&D magic if you start with Amnesty. Go all the way back to the very beginning, “Here There Be Gerblins,” and you’ll meet Magnus Burnsides (the folksy human fighter), Merle Highchurch (the ornery dwarf cleric) and Taako from TV (the sassy elf wizard–and quite possibly one of the best characters ever created).  These three characters embark on a series of adventures, following an engrossing storyline that veered almost immediately from the D&D playbooks and was written by Dungeon Master Griffin McElroy, that delighted and enthralled. I seriously wept at some parts, laughed hysterically at most of their antics, and fell completely in love with these characters.

One little “Mom” note: there is a good amount of swearing, some dirty jokes, and a lot of creature-slaying.