Lou Brew Reviews: Heavy Riff and 4 Hands

Since these two are tied for 2nd place in my book, I decided to do a post about both of them together.


We just sort of stumbled upon Heavy Riff the other day, after the most delicious burgers at Hi-Pointe Drive-In. Their Squeeze Box Lemon Wheat is pretty good, and I was surprised how much I liked the Eat a Peach IPA and their American Pale Ale Left Coast Envy, since I’m not a huge fan of hops (I know, how reliable can my craft brews reviews be if I don’t like IPAs?).

The space is a good size, with a few booths, some pub tables as well as actual dining tables. They have a shelf full of board games — so lingering over drinks is encouraged.


The theme of the name carries throughout, from guitar draft handles to posters of rock legends and concerts along the walls.

~

Four Hands is a bit more “commercial” than most of the other breweries, which my husband didn’t like as much. They have a nice lounge area with couches and low tables, as well as the main bar area with the long tables and plenty of seats at the bar. Then there’s an upstairs, with it’s own bar, booths and tables, and old-school arcade games like skee-ball.

We tried a handful of samples, and my husband really liked the (seasonal) Snake Oil Red IPA, and my favorite was the (also seasonal) Tangerine Slam/City Museum (for some reason, it had different names depending on the drinks menu you looked at). The Single Speed is year-round and pretty good, blonde ale.

We met up with a few friends here before the Army-Navy game, so it was a fairly brief visit. I’d love to go back now that the seasonal beers have changed over (and maybe this time snap a few pics!).

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February Fashion: Part 1

These were taken before February so don’t technically count for the month, but I like the outfits.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with fashion and style blogs lately. Enough to wish I had my own style blog, enough to know I most likely never will. I know myself well enough to accept that while I love putting together outfits that make me feel great, I don’t know enough to give other people advice about their own style. Also, I’m still trying to pull my own style out of a blending together of my very different style icons.

Beth (This is Us), Maggie (Grey’s), Jess (New Girl), Mandy (Last Man Standing), and Sabrina (The Mick) *Photos from Google*      (also, not pictured: my sister in law)

However, as sort of a creative challenge, I determined to try with every outfit this month (none of this just throwing on leggings and a t-shirt because it’s Saturday nonsense — not that there’s anything wrong with leggings and a tee, especially with the athleisure trend seemingly here to stay). It’s been fun putting together combinations I haven’t tried before, and I’ve found a few new “fave outfits” that just make me feel great.

2/3 – 2/7 (- 2/5 [no pic] + quick change for Date Night)
Of course, I was sick (like call-out-of-work, fuse-to-the-couch kind of sick) the first two days of February. Those days I did manage to at least change from PJs to leggings and a hoodie, but that was as far as I got.

2/8-2/10 (+ fundraiser event and polka dot details)

I’ve been jotting down ideas for each day, as well as noting the ones I really love (like both center pics above).
I’ve only run into one major dud (and I immediately changed), which is great, but this project is really about finding clothes and outfits I truly *love*. At the end of the month, I’ll highlight my favorites, which will also make dressing for work a lot easier, too!

2/11-2/14

The challenge has the added bonus of helping me clean out my closet of clothes I rarely wear or ones I learn I won’t wear again (which in turn makes room for new pieces to love!).

Lou Brew Reviews: Urban Chestnut

As I posted recently, we’ve visited quite a few of the local breweries, and Urban Chestnut takes the number one spot in my personal favorites list.


Urban Chestnut (in the Grove — haven’t been to the Midtown location…yet) wins because the Schnickelfritz is one of my favorite beers, and I like the beer hall atmosphere of the brewery. There are long, family-style tables (we got to share ours with a wedding party once), a decent-sized outdoor patio for nicer weather, and a great space for private parties, too.

The bartenders are knowledgeable and helpful if you aren’t sure what to try. They’ll let you taste a few before finding your new favorite. They’ll also tell you all about their sister brewery in Germany (which is why their beers all have German names).


While we haven’t tried food at every brewery, so this isn’t exactly a fair comparison, I do like the pretzel offered at Urban Chestnut. It’s browned nicely on the outside, warm and soft inside — even if the accoutrements are a little unexpected (still not sure what the orange glob is).

I will say, we went here a little too often over the span of a few weeks, so I had to take a break and explore what other brew options are out there. Now that some time has passed, and I’ve visited plenty of other breweries, I can say with some confidence this place holds the number one spot for me.

One More Light

This song by Linkin Park quietly destroys me every time.

February has been the worst month for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense that the shortest month would take the longest to pass by. It isn’t the beginning of the cold, dreary weather, and it isn’t the tail end either. It just sits in the middle of gray and crushes me every year.

Part of it may be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but while all of winter is generally more of a struggle than the rest of the year, in February in particular, I’m a shell of a person. Everything is hollow and cold and faded inside. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or any particular trauma — trust me, I’ve tried to trace this weirdness to some tangible explanation. My husband says it’s self-fulfilling prophecy: I expect February to suck, so it does. He (thankfully) can’t understand the depth of it — or sudden lack of any depth of emotion at all. Every year I hope it’s better — I hope I’m better, healthier, happier. And when it turns out I’m not, there’s still a tiny sort of comfort in knowing I just have to make it to March.

March is nothing special. In fact, I’d say it’s my second-least favorite month. March is when the cold and the damp and the wind wear me down, but at least it’s in a more normal way that nearly everyone is getting worn down. I know I’m more alive in March.

Recently, January has added a day or two of February-level angst. It happened today, which got me thinking about this time of year. At least with the January days, I know exactly where it comes from. Three years ago, I lost someone to suicide.

I felt strange at first, claiming the loss as my own. It’s his family I’m closer too. But he was a light; even in the snippets of time I shared with him, I could see that. Sometimes I could recognize his darkness, too. Along with his death, I lost my old friends. They are the same and yet wholly new people. How could they not be, after clawing their way back to the living, forever watching where they step around the gaping hole that will never fill?

Suicide brings loss in many ways, not all of them expected. That’s something I learned three years ago.

The January punch-in-the-gut doesn’t always happen on “the day.” But in each of the past three Januaries, I have woken up feeling hollow. My mind replays little details from that time, as vividly as if it were happening all over again. I feel the carpet fibers under my fingers as I lay on the floor beside my bed, tears leaking into my ears. My throat catches, remembering how I called my mom and said “what do I do?” because moms are supposed to have all the answers, but what mother can fathom losing a child until it happens?

Today I feel both carved out and filled with everything. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I drove to work, and for a terrifying moment, I feared February had come early.  Then that song came on and I realized it’s my January ghost. He sits with me and reminds me to feel it all. The pain and the anger and the heartache. He reminds me of carpet fibers and clogged eardrums. Of his mom promising to shower and brush her teeth, even if she couldn’t bring herself to do anything else all day. Of his stepdad, hollow-eyed and deflated, trudging through parking lots with the dogs that kept them both breathing.

My chest cracks open and pain bleeds through my shirt and it’s all I can do to get through the day without crawling under my desk and sobbing, but I make it. I always do.

Because January is here to remind me how imperative it is that I survive February.

“Who cares if one more light goes out?”

So. Many. People.

Our Sixth Month-iversary

I just reread my post after we’d been in Saint Louis for a month and kept thinking how adorable it was/we were. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and timid of our surroundings.

There is still SO much for us to do and explore and conquer, but damn have we gotten comfortable, too. We’ve found a neighborhood bar for football games in I-Tap, or Tom’s for trivia, awesome chicken tenders, and karaoke on the weekends. Oof, I’ll have to write a post (or several) about all the amazing food we’ve had.


I love Forest Park, even (especially?) the pathways that intimidated me at first, with the shadowed bridges and wooded trails. I have no fear wandering the park alone, or sending my husband to take his daily walks through the park or the neighborhood by himself. Sure, we’re aware of our surroundings, especially at night, but no more so than we were back in the DC area.


The Grove is also one of our favorite neighborhoods. It is home to my husband’s favorite sandwich spot: Gramophone (mention either the Grove or Gramophone to him and prepare to hear at length about the Alcatraz sandwich). It’s also the location of Urban Chestnut Brewery, which might be my favorite of the local breweries. I’ll probably put out a post about all the beer we’ve had since moving at some point, too.


My husband found his coffee shop in Kaldi’s Coffee in Demun — which is also his favorite residential neighborhood to wander through, enjoying the different houses. He’s also recently started using our French press to make coffee at home (that damn Crate & Barrel coffee maker gathering dust on the shelf in our front closet). With Whole Foods and Straubs Market each a block away, we’ve had no excuse not to cook at home most nights, and it’s encouraged us to try a lot of new recipes and cook with ingredients we just hadn’t before, like tofu and tilapia. Also, I’ve never been into seafood the way I have been here. It’s so weird, being landlocked, but the fish is flown in fresh daily to most places.

Blackened Tilapia Tacos

I could go on and on, and plan to be better at posting about our adventures and discoveries, but for now, let me just say: I freaking love Saint Louis. I love the Midwest, I love living in an urban setting with lush parks and nature steps away. Guys, there’s also NO TRAFFIC. It’s so easy to get to hiking trails, or the mall, or my office (20 min to go about the same miles), or Missouri wine country… There’s always some sort of festival or event going on, and most of the time it’s free. Seriously, everyone come visit. Or come stay. Six months in, and I’m not looking back.

Brewery Lights Tour

If I Can Be Honest

This year, I’m going to be more honest. This means if I take a picture that’s perfectly Instagram-worthy, I’m going to mention all the little tweaks and not-so-perfect behind the scenes details that got it there. This means I’m probably going to swear more, because as Tosca Lee once said about picturing her mom reading her writing, “even if I didn’t write it down, I’m thinking it anyway.” (hi, Mom). This means I’m not going to shy away from discussing my struggles when I feel led to do so, or pretend I’m healthier than I am, even if my husband calls it “dirty laundry.”

Because that’s the problem. We treat things like anxiety and mental illness as dirty laundry, something to be swept under the rug or shoved into a rarely-used closet. Ignore it until it goes away.

But it doesn’t go away.

When left unattended, it gets into the good liquor and has a party. It scribbles over the walls in permanent marker and TPs the neighbors’ yards.

And we smile and laugh and pretend like the chaos inside isn’t tearing us apart. Because otherwise, we might embarrass our loved ones. Otherwise, someone else might see the chinks in our seemingly perfect facade.

To be fair, my husband is often eerily good at navigating my darker days. He’s understanding and loving. He simply accepts it (without trying to “fix it”) when I tell him I’m having a rough day, or my chest aches, or I’m just not feeling well inside. He recognizes times I may overspend my spoons (side note: spoon theory is one of the best explanations for life with chronic illness I’ve ever read) and helps me better plan my days so I don’t exhaust myself too early. He encouraged me to seek professional help, which I cannot recommend enough if you are struggling with anything.

That’s something else that is so important to me: removing the stigma around counseling and therapy. It’s so beneficial to have an objective person to bounce ideas off of, and it is incredibly validating to have someone who spent years of their life studying mental processes tell you that you aren’t in fact crazy. My therapist took all my Google-search- and undergrad-psych-fueled fears, and refuted most — and better explained others. She helped me understand the anxieties I do have, and gave me a multitude of exercises to practice to better cope.

Seriously, talk to someone. Everyone could get something out of it.

Even if it’s the freedom of not feeling the need to censor oneself. That’s what this year is about for me: freedom from hiding who I really am. Also, discovering who I really am. You know, now that I’m being honest.

Rough Draft

I am a rough draft of an unfinished story.

More scribbles and scratch-outs than fully formed pages.

Rearranged and torn in two,

Rewritten and crossed-out and written anew.

I am wrinkled nights and broken mornings,

Blackened fingers and crumpled words.

Half-thoughts and almost-ideas left for tomorrow.

I am a page, bleeding ink,

Splotched with tears and tea-stains.

Spiral bound with bent wires and torn covers.

Loved and hated, fiercely possessed and easily discarded.

I am guarded secrets and hushed truths,

Hidden beneath layers of fiction.

I gather dust on the bottom shelf of an over-stuffed bookcase,

Forgotten indefinitely.

I am a burst of inspiration,

A frenzy of black and white smudged with gray fingerprints.

I am midnight mac-n-cheese and ice cream for breakfast.

I am candle smoke and flickering flame.

I am the cramps in fingers

Squeezed too long around an unforgiving pen.

I am every ache along every vertebra of a bent body.

I am drooping eyelids and lengthening shadows.

I am hope—caffeine-fueled and desperate.

I am defeat—emptiness and melting pillows.

Scalding showers washing sobs and ideas down a drain already clogged with shattered dreams.

I am pride and I am shame.

I am everything that could be and nothing that ever was.

I am a half-formed story, waiting for someday.