Laumeier Sculpture Park

Because this blog is for rambling about what I love, and because I love Saint Louis (and because my husband might strangle me if I continue to wax poetic about our fair city to him on a daily basis), I’m coming at you with another fun St. Louis adventure.

I like how vague the punishment warning is. Maybe even better than the actual sculpture…

Laumeier Sculpture Park is not even 20 minutes outside the city. It’s a sprawling park with really cool sculptures (duh) and lots of open space for children and dogs to frolic, romantic picnics, or maybe a borderline-aggressive game of ultimate Frisbee. There are paved paths that wind between sections of the park so you can take a leisurely stroll through the grounds. OR if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and looking for a more rustic trail, there are a few winding through the trees surrounding the park.

img_1042
We did not go into the hiking with any sort of plan, and mostly stuck to the Western Woodland Trail. We ran into a couple of dead-ends (ok, one was really just that we heard slithering sounds from the underbrush and I DO NOT DO SNAKES — which I shouted as I ran back the way we’d come — so technically that doesn’t count as a dead end. Also, my husband said it was probably just a squirrel. Then another path was a little overgrown and my husband wasn’t trying to get THAT rustic so he said there were probably snakes along that trail, too. Which was mean, but effective). The backtracking just helped get our blood pumping and made us feel like we were real explorers.

img_1044
Once upon a time, my dad hung our old computer in a tree in our backyard, followed by several old bikes and other random things that created a sort of avant-garde sculpture garden of our own. Because of this, my husband was quick to point out a sculpture in a tree during our hike and call that artist a copy cat.

img_1048
Whatever you’re into, this is such a great spot. Easy, breezy picnic in the sun, a day out with the kids, a sophisticated art-viewing, a hike through nature — Laumeier Sculpture Park can do that for you.

PS: It’s free!

[Fantasy] Football Season is Here!

I love this time of year. Apart from the promise of pumpkin beers and sweaters and boots, fall brings with it the delight of football season.

I was never that girl: super into football. Baseball was my sport of choice, but I’d watch basketball or football if it was on. I’d half-heartedly cheer for the Patriots or Packers (which are my parents’ favorite teams) or the Redskins (because they were the home team), or failing those excuses, I’d pick the team with the prettier uniform colors (i.e. Panthers and Seahawks).

The Wildcards invited me to join their fantasy football league two years ago. It was possibly a rare instance of the boys being nice, or maybe they figured adding a couple girls who didn’t pay attention to football would increase their chances of winning. I don’t think they realized just how consumingly competitive I am.

The first year, I scoured the lists of top players and read a few articles about projections, but mostly I went in fairly blind and ended up with a pretty phenomenal team that brought me to second place. Somehow, I managed to draft Gronk, Odell Beckham Jr, Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, and Drew Brees. If I hadn’t lost Woodhead in a misguided trade and OBJ to his attitude — and suspension — I might have won it all.

Last year, I made it to play-offs, but ended middle of the pack. It was frustrating, since I’d spent far more time and energy last season reading every scrap of information I could get, taking risks tempered with “expert” advice. Still, I learned.

For me, the best result of fantasy football is that it’s encouraged me to pay attention. And not just to the teams I like for wishy-washy reasons, but to every game. Every player. Because of fantasy, I know the names of the top players in the league. And because of fantasy, I’ve found my favorite team in the Oakland Raiders.

My husband argues this is simply because we have family in Oakland. That helps, but even once they go to Vegas, as long as Carr leads them, I’ll follow. Between the past two years, I’ve had almost their entire (possible) offensive line on my team. My brother-in-law offered me the typical challenge when one claims to love a team: name three of their players. Easy: Carr, Crabtree, Cooper, Janikowski, Murray (at the time), Jalen Richard, Walford.

At this point, I could probably name at least three players on every team in the league. That’s not all Oakland has going for it. I just love watching them. They have an obvious cohesion and a fluidity that’s beautiful. They’re good — good enough to keep every game interesting — but not so good that it would be more exciting to watch them lose (ahem: Patriots). I’ve watched every single team play any number of times, but few give me a similar thrill to the one I get when the Raiders are on the field.

And I have fantasy football to thank for giving me a team to cheer for, and interest in a sport that’s as intricate and graceful as it is straight-forward and brutal. Win or lose, I’ll always have that.

But, obviously, I want to win, too.

This Election Day, Let’s All Eat Our Feelings

I was going to email this recipe to my mom, because that’s what I do when I’m eating lunch and really patting myself on the back mentally. Then I remembered I have a blog I can brag through, so you’re welcome, world. Also, it’s Election Day, and almost everyone I know wants to puke for one reason or another, regardless of political affiliations. Why not stuff our faces with gooey, sweet, buttery dessert instead?

Sorry there are no pictures to go along with this recipe. Like I said, I was just going to email it to my mom and I rarely need to send photographic evidence of my culinary prowess.

If you ever feel like eating apple pie but also don’t feel like actually making apple pie you can try this apple crisp recipe I did spontaneously last night. Though now that I think about it, it’s probably barely less effort than apple pie. It just seemed like nothing because I already had the knives and cutting boards out and the oven already heating because I was cooking spaghetti squash and roasting tomatoes (which by the way turned out ah-mazing). Anyway, so I was going to make cookies because I was in a dessert kind of mood but I also didn’t want to do the cleanup and the waiting that can go into my shortbread cookies and also I’d just bought several apples at the farmer’s market and it’s fall so it’s like apple pie season, right?

But I didn’t have any pie crust and I was not trying to make that from scratch after all the hard work I’d already done cutting a spaghetti squash in half (guys, it’s really hard, okay?). So I basically was like “excuse me, Google, can you tell me what delicious desserts I can make with apples that don’t involve pie crusts?” and Google was like “duh, I know everything.” (I could have asked Siri but I’m not really talking to him right now [yes, him. I changed the voice option to male and British and I used to have him read me my texts but then my husband got jealous and sent me rude texts that Siri then read, and it’s really uncool to have your own phone call you smelly in a sexy British accent]. Google, on the other hand, is always so helpful. Probably because I don’t have the thing where Google talks to you, and I just Google things the old fashioned way by typing them into Google. Okay, at this point I should probably get some sort of endorsement deal for the number of times I’ve mentioned Google, right?)

Moving on, I found a recipe for apple crisp that had been adapted from a peach crisp recipe, and I think it was on allrecipes.com but I don’t know for sure so I’m really really sorry to whomever is not receiving the proper credit for this recipe but I just don’t feel like getting back on the Google right now, especially since I’m not even getting paid to talk about Google.

It goes like this:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup white sugar (I think I’ll try trimming this down to like 3/4 cup next time…but it hasn’t been tested yet so proceed at your own risk)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I used 2 big Granny Smith apples and a decent-sized…Honeycrisp, maybe? I don’t remember I just started grabbing up apples without reading the labels — other than the Granny Smith which we all already know are poison-apple-green)
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 8×8 pan
  2. Layer in your apple slices. Eat a few because they don’t quite fit or because you feel like it (or because they fell on the stove top and your husband won’t eat the dessert if they’re included because he doesn’t trust that heat kills germs and besides, the stove top is actually pretty clean right now anyway, Charlie).
  3. In a large bowl, sift (or whisk) dry ingredients.
  4. Cut in butter. Okay, so I just remembered this was actually weird and difficult because I’ve never “cut in” butter before — I mean what even does that mean? I used my awesome brain power and context clues (the recipe said I could use two knives to do this) to kind of wing it. I just plopped my butter into the dry mixture and started slicing and dicing and sort-of-stirring until it was a crumbly sort of mixture.
  5. Sprinkle (or use my method: dump & spread) over the slices in the pan.
  6. Bake 40 minutes (until the crust is golden around the edges)
  7. Let it sit for a hot second and taste-test a small piece because apples get really dang hot and if you take too large a bite you will scald your entire mouth and throat and complain all night, Charlie.

Oh, and for my fellow Americans, don’t skip out on voting today! It’s super important, because what even is a democracy if the people don’t get a say, however tiny you might feel yours is? If nothing else, give yourself license to complain for the next four years by making a choice today. And then reward yourself with this dish.

Also bonus recipe because that spaghetti squash is still making me irrationally smug:

https://ramblingsofawildcard.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/dinner-so-easy-my-husband-could-do-it/

A Crisis Averted

Remember when I was pity-partying over my lack of chocolate chip cookie skills? My sister-in-law just shut it down with a life-saving recipe.

Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, but having a good cookie recipe up your sleeve is pretty much crucial for things like making friends, impressing co-workers, or surviving the winter. 

When I told my husband his sister sent me a recipe to try, his eyes widened with excitement and his voice took on a reverent hush: “Nina is a great baker!”

Fall has arrived in our neck of the woods, bringing with it the blustery wind I hate and the blushing leaves I love. With football on TV, it just felt like a cookie day. Armed with the recipe my sister swears by, annotated with her own tips, I took a deep breath and opened my heart to the chance I could make a perfect chocolate chip cookie after all.

I was not disappointed. If you are struggling to find the *perfect* recipe (and if your definition of perfect is golden outside, fluffy, chewy, not-cakey inside), let Smitten Kitchen rock your world.

img_1987
This guy is so happy to become my delicious dream-come-true!

The most reassuring bit of advice from Nina: The cookies will still look gooey when you take them out at 11 minutes, but they cook more on the sheet. Also, if — like me — you are in a rental with a standard, inexpensive oven, don’t beat yourself up if they don’t come out perfect every time. It’s the oven’s fault!

Thank you, thank you, to my lovely sister — and to Smitten Kitchen, the source of this great recipe. My husband has already eaten about half the batch.