A couple of wildcards came to visit over St. Patty’s Day weekend, so of course I took them to the City Museum. There are few things as fun as climbing on stuff (and few things worse than realizing just how old you are when you try to wriggle through caverns).
We immediately lost one of them. He took off through a gap in the caverns that the two remaining were not enthused about. After a Roger Murtaugh-esque we’re getting too old for this shit moment, we finally wrenched our bodies through twisting gaps made for children to find the first wildcard had vanished. A trek through near-pitch-dark, winding pathways full of tiny pockets children would randomly pop out of led us (somehow) to the second floor cafeteria. After a couple more disorienting tries, we remembered we’re adults with cell phones and so we coordinated a regrouping and plunged into the caves a happy trio once again.
The caves lead round and through and up to the top of the 10-story slide. About halfway up, it’s all tightly spiraled stairs that one of us (okay, me) charged up with wild abandon, only to nearly pass out from hyperventilation at the top. The guy watching the slide entrances was slightly misleading when he said “Slide 2 is open!” and did not add that it is slightly shorter (ending about a story above Slide 1). Also, I got stuck a couple times and had to kick my feet to get moving again. And by the time I exited the slide, my quad muscles had seized up after all that stair-climbing and I was confronted for the second time with just how old I am.
We were also all sweating from the exertion and the heat pumping into the building on top of all the tiny bodies clogging everywhere (don’t these kids have school!?) so we headed out to Monstrocity and the blessed chill of early March in the Midwest. Once again, the youthful-hearted wildcard took off into the cages, climbing higher than I swore I ever would, while I waved like a proud-yet-slightly-worried mama from the catwalk over the giant ball-pit.
His adventurous spirit was contagious, though, and before long we all found ourselves monkeying up wire ladders and strutting across catwalks that lead out from the plane wings. We found a terrifying slide that was very short but very steep. When I finally let go of the bar and slid, I shot down it so fast I skidded across the sidewalk. An older couple went down, and he almost took her out at the bottom. We went down twice.
I loved the City Museum the first time I visited, but I also had a sort of “been there, done that” feeling when presented with the opportunity to go again. I’m really glad I did check it out a second time. I climbed higher than I ever believed possible of myself, and I got to play like children with some of my favorite people.
If you’ll remember, I had a bugger of a cold around the beginning of the month. My husband made it a full week before succumbing himself.
If you have a man in your life, you know what big babies they become at the first sniffle. (Okay, okay, this time around my throat hurt so badly I was a whiny mess myself). Regardless, a loved one with man flu requires some extra pampering.
I’ve written before about the soups I whip up to fight illness, but you can never have enough easy soup recipes, especially in the middle of cold and flu season. This one has the added bonus of being a childhood throwback made healthier.
Who doesn’t love ramen noodles? Salty, savory, noodley perfection. This recipe is almost as easy as the pre-packaged junk and even tastier — if I do say so myself.
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs minced onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 cup frozen broccoli
1/2 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 Tbs turmeric
1/2 Tbs ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 Tbs chives
1/2 Tbs soy sauce (optional)
1 tsp sriracha (optional)
1 sheet Chinese noodles
Heat oil in stockpot over Medium. Add onions and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 min.
Add veggies and spices through pepper. Cook, stirring often, about 3-5 min.
Stir in chives and chicken stock. Bring to boil.
Add soy sauce and sriracha. Boil about 8-10 min, stirring occasionally. (Side note: all the seasoning measurements are approximate so taste/adjust as needed throughout.)
Break noodles in chunks and add to pot. Cook about 3-4 minutes, breaking noodles apart with spoon as they soften (you can also add 1 cup water to keep soup brothier).
My brother came to visit us in our new city just before Thanksgiving, which gave me the perfect excuse to check another “touristy” item off my STL bucket list: the City Museum.
It’s basically a giant jungle gym for kids and adults alike. There’s a “tree house” of metal caging, caverns that lead to spiral stairs — that climb all the way to the top of a 10-story slide. They have an outdoor ball pit surrounded by elevated walkways and castle-like turrets. The roof supposedly has even more awesome things (including a ferris wheel), but it was too cold, wet, and windy when we went so we did not get to check it out.
The whole time I was chasing my baby brother through the obstacles and losing him in the caverns, I kept thinking just how awesome a place like that would have been when I was younger. When I was little, my swing-set was my palace, a felled tree my pirate ship, the space under the porch my bandit’s hideout. My imagination ran wild with the simplest of settings, so how much more could I have been with whales to crawl through, cages to dangle from, and castle towers to climb? I’m pretty sure my parents would never have gotten me to leave. Even now, my imagination kicked in and I found myself dreaming up pretend adventures — which made the realization I’d reached the thin catwalk that led to the top of the 10-story slide slightly less stomach-dropping.
The City Museum is a great experience for any age. I’ve read they have adults-only nights on the weekends, when a DJ fills the building with the hottest hits and it’s less weird to order drinks at the bar. However, even when the place was overrun with kids, we had a blast.
I forgot that used to be a thing, until someone showed me a joke:
her: “I’m breaking up with you.”
him: “Is it because I keep saying ‘uh oh, spaghettios’?”
her: “Actually, yes.”
him: “Uh oh, spaghettios…”
Now it keeps popping into my head. Which leads me to think about — what else? — spaghettios. I love spaghettios almost as much as Kraft mac n cheese or hot dogs. It’s so easy to pop open a can and have that cheesy-tomato goodness in my belly in a matter of minutes. But I am an adult now, and therefore I must limit my lazy junk food splurges to desperate times (like when I’m really needing quick comfort food, or at the beach with my garbage friends). The good news is there are plenty of “adult” (read: homemade) versions of the comfort food I so enjoy. I’m still searching for the *perfect* macaroni and cheese recipe, but I’ve found enough good ones that I can whip up a decent pot when the craving strikes. I save the hot dogs for the ballpark (or a particularly fantastic grilling day). That leaves spaghettios as my only semi-justifiable lazy-splurge.
I stumbled across the original recipe on Pinterest (I am obsessed with Pinterest recipes), but you can find it here. I can never thank Nikki Gladd enough for the post that gave me permission to eat spaghettios like an adult. I’ve made my own tweaks and adjustments, which to me give the dish even more of an authentic taste, still while maintaining an air of healthiness.
The most important item: spaghetti rings. I found them at Wegmans (which is hands down the best grocery store.)
I skip the garlic. I’m a big fan of garlic, but I’ve found eliminating it from this particular dish actually makes it better (which is rarely the case). The other major trick I found is cooking the noodles directly in the sauce, rather than separately and combining with the sauce at the end. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the tomatoey-taste fattens the pasta.
Check out the full recipe if you’re feeling like reconnecting with the kid inside you (or if, like me, you feel a little guilty for all the canned junk you eat).
Olive Oil for pan (~1 tbs)
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 can Tomato Sauce
1 scoop Tomato Paste (~1 tbs. The time I made this the best, I used a regular spoon and eyeballed it)
3 cups water
8 oz spaghetti rings (or other round pasta)
Generous pinch of granulated sugar
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2-4 tbs butter (you can cut down to make it even ‘healthier’)
1/4 cup milk
~1 cup shredded cheese (I used pre-shredded Mexican cheese. I also just dropped two handfuls in rather than measuring an actual cup)
In medium saucepan, saute the red pepper flakes in olive oil over Medium heat for about 30 seconds.
Add the tomato sauce, paste, water, pasta, sugar, salt and pepper.
Bring to low boil, stirring frequently to keep pasta from sticking to bottom of pan.
Add butter. Stir until melted.
Stir in milk.
Simmer over Medium-Low for about 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
(If sauce seems too runny, add a second scoop of tomato paste to thicken. Stir until fully distributed, then turn off heat) Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring between to melt fully.